Senior constable Brian Quinn outside Lismore Local Court.
Senior constable Brian Quinn outside Lismore Local Court. Hamish Broome

Boy in the paddy wagon ‘sweaty’ and ‘crying’

FRIDAY 5pm: TWO police officers accused of leaving an eight-year-old Aboriginal boy locked in the back of a police paddy wagon will wait until mid-September to hear their fate.

Lismore Local Court Magistrate Jeff Linden this afternoon adjourned the matter until September 13, telling the court it was "very very likely" he would deliver his final ruling on that day.

Today and yesterday's Local Court hearing concerned Senior Constables Brian Quinn, 33, and Michael Writer, 44, who face charges of leaving a child in a motor vehicle causing emotional distress, and neglecting to carry out a lawful order over the incident on the afternoon of last April 13.

Eighteen witnesses were called by the prosecution to give evidence, including several police officers and Aboriginal parents and children.  

 

FRIDAY 1.15pm: A PROSECUTION witness in the case against two police officers accused of leaving an eight-year-old Aboriginal boy locked in the back of a paddy wagon said the boy was "sweaty" and "crying" when he was finally let out of the vehicle.

Prosecution witness Luke Haywood, a mid-Richmond social worker called to the witness box this morning, had come to the Coraki police station at about 2.45pm with the boy's mother to find out where her son was.

He described the moment Coraki Sergeant Dean Childs "kind of went quiet", as he was told over the phone by one of the accused officers, Senior Constable Mick Writer, that the boy was locked in the back of a police wagon parked out the front of Coraki police station.

At that moment Writer was still in Evans Head with his fellow accused officer Senior Constable Brian Quinn after being called there for a job with another officer.

Even though he could not hear the phone conversation between Sergeant Childs and Writer, Mr Haywood told the court he "got the idea something wasn't right"

"I kind of got the feeling something was going on because of his odd behaviour," Mr Haywood said.

Sergeant Childs said he was "going to get a notebook" out of the wagon parked in front of the station.

He went to the front cabin of the vehicle and "glanced over to the back seat" before he walked around and opened the back door.

That's when Mr Haywood saw the boy get out of the vehicle.

"He was sweaty, his lips were trembling, he was emotional, crying, and his clothes were sticking to him," Mr Haywood told the court.

But Sergeant Childs, who gave evidence yesterday, told the court was just "a little red in the face" but otherwise okay.

He told the court the child only became upset and started to cry after seeing his mother, who was "hysterical".

Mr Haywood said he was furious, telling Sergeant Childs it was "unf**king acceptable" and police needed to make stronger efforts to build relationships with the Aboriginal community and "s**t like that doesn't help".

Sergeant Childs told him to calm down.

Defence barrister Brett Eurell questioned whether Mr Haywood's memory had "amplified or exaggerated" the physical and emotional state of the boy, but Mr Haywood disagreed.

Two paramedics called to Coraki following the discovery of the boy gave evidence this morning about the boy's physical state when they arrived.

When veteran ambulance officer Desmond Whitney arrived at Coraki police station from Casino with his colleague Sally Butler at about 3.20pm, the boy was sitting in the front of a car with the air conditioning on.

Mr Whitney said the mother was "very distressed", but tests on the boy's physical state revealed "nothing significant".

Mr Whitney said he was "alert, conscious, albeit shy", and was not suffering from even mild dehydration.

The paramedics offered to take the boy to hospital, as per normal protocol, but the mother declined.

The hearing continues.

 

UPDATE 3.15pm: RICHMOND Local Area Command Inspector Doug Conners was the duty officer stationed in Lismore on the afternoon of April 13 last year when he received an urgent call about the drama unfolding at Coraki.

He immediately left Lismore to attend Coraki police station to assess the situation.

He said the boy's mother was "hysterical" when he arrived.

"The emotions were running high," he told the court.

Defence barrister Brett Eurell asked Inspector Conners if the Coraki police were often tasked to deal with juvenile offending in the area.

Her put it to the senior officer that there was a "degree of animosity" between the indigenous community and Senior Constable Writer, to which Inspector Conners didn't disagree.

But Inspector Conners gave evidence that when he spoke to Writer over the phone his "primary concern was for the welfare of the child", and he "sounded very distressed" about the situation.

Mr Eurell also noted April 13 was a "mild" day.

He noted the vehicles used by police were designed to hold people safely for extended periods thanks to an independently powered fan that feeds fresh air and ventilation through the vehicle.

Asked whether there were occasions when children were locked in the back, Inspector Conners said it was "not ideal but there are circumstances where it may happen".

However, he also noted that juveniles being transported to Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre in Grafton were often in the back of paddy wagons for over an hour.

The second child who was locked in the paddy wagon for a short time alongside the alleged victim was also called to give evidence over the April 13 incident.

The nine-year-old gave his evidence via video link from a private room.

Prior to his testimony Magistrate Jeff Linden asked him if he knew the difference between the truth and a lie, to which he replied 'no'.

Under questioning from defence barrister Brett Eurell he said the alleged victim had been in trouble before for throwing rock through a window at the Coraki hospital and a second incident where he threw a rock at a car.

The child who was locked in the paddy wagon is due to give evidence after 2pm.

 

UPDATE 1.20pm: A WITNESS in the case against two Coraki police officers accused of locking an Aboriginal boy in a paddy wagon for over an hour has told how his "brand spanking new" work ute was "trashed" by a group of Aboriginal boys who pelted rocks, bottles and fruit at it.

Former Richmond Valley Council gardener Terry Collins was working at the Coraki sewage treatment plant on April 13 last year, which is adjacent to the Box Ridge Aboriginal community.

He had just finished his mowing of the grounds afternoon when he heard a loud "bang".

When he went to investigate, he saw his new work car badly damaged and a group of about four to six young Aboriginal boys, who laughed and "spat a mouthful of cheek" at him.

Under cross examination by the officers' defence barrister, Mr Collins said the vandalism by young boys from the Box Ridge community was not "a one-off occurrence" but this was the "one time" they got caught.

"Everyone in the sewage treatment plant knows to be on the look out for them," he said.

"I myself have called the cops on them plenty of times".

"We've got two cops who did their job in they're in court…. c'mon," he said.

It was one of those boys who Senior Constables Michael Writer and Brian Quinn allegedly put in the rear of their paddy wagon and forgot about, after leaving the Coraki 22 vehicle parked outside Coraki police station and attending another job in Evans Head.

They originally placed two boys in in the purpose-built cell compartment in the rear of the vehicle.

But one of those boys was dropped off with his mother at Box Ridge.

Senior constable Michael Writer outside Lismore Local Court.
Senior constable Michael Writer outside Lismore Local Court. Hamish Broome

When they couldn't find the second boy's mother, they returned with him to Coraki Police Station and parked outside.

It's alleged the boy was left in the paddy wagon unattended for about an hour and 10 minutes, from about 1.40pm to 2.48pm.

So far this morning the Local Court hearing before Magistrate Jeff Linden has heard from six witnesses.

Eighteen witnesses are expected to be called during the two day hearing.

One of the witnesses Richmond Local Area Command Sergeant Dean Childs was working a day shift at the Coraki police station on April 13 last year.

He tasked officers Quinn and Writer to the treatment plant after receiving a call about the alleged vandalism of the Richmond Valley council vehicle.

They returned about 2pm, but Sergeant Childs was not initially told the boy was in the paddy wagon.

He told the court that when he received a call from the boy's mother asking about the boy's whereabouts, Senior Constable Writer told him that the officers had left the boy at a Box Ridge cottage.

Sergeant Childs said both Writer and Quinn then left to go to a job in Evans Head with another officer, Senior Constable Peter Richardson.

It wasn't until the boy's mother turned up at the station looking for the boy that Sergeant Childs said he rang Writer on his mobile phone, when it apparently dawned on him where the boy was.

"F**k Sarge, we left him in the back of the truck," Sergeant Childs told the court Writer said to him over the phone.

Sergeant Childs said he immediately went to the truck and helped the boy get out.

He told the court a fan designed to cool the containment area was running when the boy got out.

The boy appeared "a little red in the face", but calm.

However, he burst into tears upon seeing his mother, who was "upset and hysterical".

Paramedics attended a short time later.

Sergeant Childs told the court that when he spoke to Senior Constable Writer again, the officer asked "is he OK?"

"I know we f**cked up, and I know we're in trouble, but as long as he's okay," he said.

The hearing continues.

An Aboriginal boy was allegedly left in a paddy wagon at Coraki Police Station for hours.
An Aboriginal boy was allegedly left in a paddy wagon at Coraki Police Station for hours. Rob Wright

THURSDAY 9.27am: TWO police officers who allegedly left an eight-year-old Aboriginal boy locked in the holding area of a police paddy wagon for three hours will today face a hearing in Lismore Local Court.

Senior Constables Brian Michael Quinn, 33, and Michael John Writer, 44, were charged in October over the incident which allegedly occurred at Coraki on April 13 2016.

The two officers had picked up the eight-year-old boy and his cousins after the children were reported throwing rocks and eggs at a car outside the Coraki sewage treatment plant.

The boy's cousins were taken home by police but because his mother was at work the two officers returned to Coraki police station and allegedly left him locked up in the paddy wagon for up to three hours while they attended to other duties.

He was found to be unharmed after being released.

An investigation was launched and in October the two police were charged with leaving a child in a motor vehicle causing emotional distress, and police officer neglect/refuse/carry out any lawful order.

The officers pleaded not guilty to the charges at a court appearance on January 17 this year and a two day hearing was scheduled for June 22 and 23.

A number of witnesses are expected to give evidence at the hearing.



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