Win against police tasering must prompt greater scrutiny

9 December 2016
A Perth Law School professor and his partner have welcomed today’s finding in the District Court of Western Australia against the three police officers accused of assaulting and tasering them.

Associate Professor Robert Cunningham and Catherine Atoms took civil action against police officers Peter Clark, Simon Traynor and Glenn Caldwell as well as the State of Western Australia for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, assault and battery.

It follows an incident over eight years ago, when Dr Cunningham and Ms Atoms stopped to help a stranger who had fallen into a hedge outside a Fremantle hotel.

Shortly afterwards they were grabbed and handcuffed by police who kicked and tasered the couple before taking them to Fremantle police station.

A Perth Magistrate later dismissed charges against them, rejecting the evidence of the arresting officer because it “lacked credibility and reliability”.

Today, District Court Judge Davis awarded her judgement in favour of Dr Cunningham and Ms Atoms and published her reasons for decision. 

Their lawyer, Maurice Blackburn Principal, Phil Gleeson says today’s finding is an important milestone in his clients’ long battle to have the behaviour of the police that night scrutinised.

“Being tasered, handcuffed, arrested and charged in what amounted to an unlawful arrest and use of weapons has had a profound effect on my clients’ lives.

“They took on this civil suit after many years of unsuccessfully trying to bring the wrongful arrest and behaviour of the police to the attention of the various authorities so they could be independently investigated and appropriately addressed”, Phil Gleeson said.

“Her Honour has meticulously considered all the evidence in this case.  She has concluded that police had no lawful basis to arrest my clients that evening and their mistake was compounded by their poor behaviour and treatment of Dr Cunningham and Ms Atoms afterwards.”

“Hopefully, today’s finding will lead to permanent change and reform in how law enforcement is applied and monitored in WA.”

Dr Cunningham says he and his wife, Ms Atoms feel both relieved and vindicated by today’s judgement.

Taking this matter to Court was a last resort after requests for internal and external reviews were ineffective.

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