Court win for young people falsely imprisoned by NSW police

31 March 2014
The State of NSW has today been denied leave to appeal in a class action on behalf of young people wrongfully arrested and detained by NSW Police.

The NSW Court of Appeal decision, by Justices Macfarlan and Ward in the matter of State of NSW v Musa Konneh, relates to a key aspect of the class action being run by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and Maurice Blackburn on behalf of young people who were detained by NSW Police based on wrong or out-of-date bail information held by the NSW Police. It is alleged that the COPS database (Computer Operational Policing System) was known by senior police to be unreliable and often inaccurate, but that police nonetheless relied on it in arresting young people unlawfully.

Miranda Nagy, special counsel at Maurice Blackburn, said: "This judgment will assist our clients who were arrested and detained for breaching bail when they were not in breach of their bail. We allege police relied on information in a database that was known by senior police to be unreliable.  The judgment today is an important step towards ensuring children, who were detained in error by police, are properly compensated.

"It was a very upsetting experience for many of our clients, as most were strip searched after their arrests and were detained overnight away from their families. Some were just 13 or 14 at the time."

In the decision, the Court of Appeal refused the State of NSW leave to appeal against an earlier decision of Justice Garling of the Supreme Court. These decisions pave the way for Mr Konneh to argue that the COPS database was known by senior NSW police to be inaccurate and unreliable, and that this knowledge should be attributed to the police officers on the beat who arrested the young people. 

The class action is now expected to consider the extent of awareness within NSW Police of the COPS database's unreliability, and whether police on the streets could ever have had "reasonable grounds" to arrest young people on the basis of information within COPS.

Ms Nagy said: "The Court of Appeal's decision marks an important moment in the class action as the Court refused the State's attempt to close down the scope of the class action.  This is a win for our clients and for transparency, as it means that evidence concerning the knowledge of senior NSW police officers about COPS and its failings can now be put before the Court."  

PIAC Senior Solicitor Michelle Cohen said: 'The judgment today is an important step towards ensuring children who were detained in error by police, are properly compensated.'

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