Candid camera: tape police said had been damaged shows officers assaulting prisoner

THREE police officers accused of covering up the violent bashing of a man arrested on the NSW north coast are at work on restricted duties, as the force’s corruption watchdog begins a formal investigation into the incident.
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Magistrate David Heilpern yesterday released the damning security footage of the attack, saying it clearly showed officers had lied about being assaulted by Aboriginal man Corey Barker.

Officers had previously told the court that the footage was unavailable as it was damaged – only for the court to ultimately ”repair” it and play it to the hearing.

The trio were yesterday spared a referral to the Supreme Court for lying under oath, with Mr Heilpern satisfied the Police Integrity Commission would investigate the matter fully.

Earlier this year, Mr Heilpern heard the case of Mr Barker, who was accused of throwing a plastic bottle at police, and then resisting arrest, during an altercation on January 14 last year.

Officers claimed when Mr Barker was taken to the local police station, he yelled and was disruptive in the dock, prompting them to move him to the rear cells.

The officers said that when they tried to move the 22-year-old, he allegedly assaulted a senior constable, David Hill, punching him in the face and flailing his arms around in a bid to break free.

Senior Constable Hill said video tapes of the incident were damaged and could not be used.

However, when the damaged tapes were obtained by the police prosecutor and repaired during Mr Barker’s assault hearing, they showed that no assault had taken place.

The video shows another police officer, Senior Constable Ryan Eckersley, kicking Mr Barker in the head area while he was on the ground, and a third officer, Lee Walmsley, kneeing him in the side.

In a judgment handed down last month, Mr Heilpern said: ”It was crystal clear that the defendant at no time punched Senior Constable Hill in the nose as described.”

He found the officers Hill and Walmsley had colluded before giving evidence to the court, and that the latter had then lied under oath in an effort to cover it up.

Mr Heilpern said the incident had ”debased the administration of justice”.

”It is hard to imagine a clearer example of bad faith than initiating proceedings on the basis of an allegation of an assault that simply did not occur,” the magistrate said.

He said the damage to the CCTV footage was ”suspicious”.

”It beggars belief that the video just happened to be unavailable for that incident. The problem is not recorded in the [police] register, despite Senior Constable Hill saying that it was.”

The magistrate found that, even when shown the footage, the officer ”refused to accept that what was depicted was what had occurred”.

”It was as though there were two parallel universes in court: the imaginary one of Senior Constable Hill and the real one that the rest of us – including the prosecutor – could see,” the magistrate said.

Senior Constable Eckersley continued to claim he had not kicked Mr Barker in the head.

Mr Barker was left handcuffed for more than an hour.

The case was thrown out in February, and in early July Mr Heilpern ordered police to pay $30,000 to cover Mr Barker’s legal costs.

A spokeswoman for the Police Integrity Commission told the Herald: ”The commission is giving the complaint serious consideration.”

The NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, declined to comment on the footage or the status of the officers involved.

with the Northern Star and Paul Bibby

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