Saturday, March 24, 2012

25 minutes and 46 seconds missing in a nasty night to remember

Ilya Gridneff | SMH | March 21, 2012

The curtain still hasn't come down on 29-year-old John Tanner's night out at Sydney Opera House eight months ago ... and it all hinges on a "missing" 25 minutes and 46 seconds.

His enjoyment of the Vivid Live festival took an ugly turn when he says he was sick in a public area after having a glass of wine and wedges last June.

John Tanner and David Rook outside the Rose Bay police station. Photo: Simon Alekna

He says he wasn't intoxicated but unwell, yet three security guards bundled him out and attacked him at 11pm.

His 41-year-old partner David Rook collected him and they drove to Rose Bay police station, 500 metres from their home, to report the alleged assault.

"At first police started to write down our details but then they started giving each other knowing glances and put their pads away," said Mr Rook, who believes that, because he has a stammer and is gay, he was not taken seriously.

John Tanner displays some of the injuries he says were sustained in the scuffle.

They drove around the corner to their home.

"We drove up our driveway and, as we did, police lights flashed behind us."

Mr Rook was breath-tested and blew .12 - more than twice the limit - and was arrested and charged at Waverley police station with mid-range PCA.


"I was shocked, I couldn't believe it. I had only driven to rescue my partner and police had followed us from the station to arrest me," he said.

Mr Tanner went back to Rose Bay police station to protest.

"By now it's 3am and police refused to take his statement, and they threw him out of the station," said Mr Rook.

It is what happened at the station that lies at the centre of the dispute and 25 minutes and 46 seconds of CCTV footage which appear to be missing.

The couple applied under freedom-of-information laws for the CCTV footage from Rose Bay police station.

On September 14, police declined their Government Information Public Access (GIPA) request, stating there was an "overriding public interest against disclosure".

The couple appealed and, while waiting for the GIPA result, Mr Rook was allowed to view the video at Rose Bay police station on September 20.


He said it clearly showed his partner being assaulted by police, who repeatedly threw him out of the station then allegedly kicked and punched him when he was trying to re-enter.

But on October 18, when police sent them the CCTV video, the alleged assault had been cut.

"I am 100 per cent clear on this. We then lodged a formal police complaint about all of this; we got treated very poorly," he said.

The NSW Office of the Information Commission, that oversees GIPA applications, agreed and reported on February 17: "Sections of footage appear to be missing from the copy of the CCTV footage.

"There remains a question as to whether Rose Bay police provided the original and complete version ... or whether the footage was edited ... "

Film skipped

From the six cameras providing the CCTV footage, cameras one, five and six "skip at certain times" by between 11 seconds and four minutes.

But City Central commander Superintendent Mark Walton said a "thorough and independent investigation" found no evidence of tampering or inappropriate police behaviour.

The NSW Ombudsman is now reviewing that investigation, he said.

NSW Greens MP and justice spokesman David Shoebridge described police actions as "a whitewash."

"The police have failed to explain the clear editing of the material produced from the CCTV and an internal police review is far from independent," he said.

"The allegations being made about what occurred during the gaps in this recording are very serious. The truth of the matter needs to come out," he said.

Mr Shoebridge is still waiting for the uncut CCTV video since applying under freedom of information laws in November last year.

Case dismissed

Due to the circumstances surrounding Mr Rook's arrest the drink-driving charge was thrown out of Downing Centre Local Court on October 24 last year.

On February 4 he was found guilty of failing to stop for police but the magistrate, applying a section 10 ruling, recorded no fine nor charge.

Mr Rook and Mr Tanner will complain to the NSW Ombudsman, the Police Integrity Commission and also the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

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