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Kevin Spratt had been denied his medical records

May 6th, 2013

Taser victim Kevin Spratt will finally be able to pursue compensation after the Western Australian State Government abandoned its unbelievable six month legal bid to prevent Mr Spratt getting his own medical records.

Kevin Spratt - Photo, perthnow.com.au

Kevin Spratt – Photo, perthnow.com.au

The indiscriminate tasering incidents of Mr Spratt firstly by WA police officers and then by WA Department of Corrective Services prison officers occurred in 2008. Mr Spratt suffered grievous injuries which could have cost his life but none of this came to the public attention till November 2010 when CCTV footage of the indiscriminate tasering was released. The footage made international headlines and cast a dark pall of aspersions on the WA Police and the WA Department of Corrective Services.

Charge sheets against Mr Spratt were fabricated by police officers at the time to make it appear Mr Spratt had resisted arrest. Mr Spratt was found guilty. With the CCTV footage as evidence the Corruption and Crimes Commission of WA quashed the conviction.

The two police officers who tasered Mr Spratt while he was on his knees begging for them to stop were only fined relatively small amounts by the WA Police after an Internal Affairs investigation. There were no charges laid at the time. The call for Police to stop investigating Police and instead for a demarcated authority to do so in such instances went viral.

Earlier this year the WA Department of the Public Prosecutor accorded to recommendations from the Corruption and Crimes Commission and issued charges against two of the police officers who had tasered Mr Spratt 14 times during one incident at the Perth Watch House.

Former Senior Constable Troy Tomlin and Sergeant Aaron Strahan have said they will fight the charges of assault from the August 2008 incident. They are being supported by the Western Australian Police Union.

In December 2010 with the commencement of the Corruption and Crimes Commission inquiry Mr Spratt and his lawyers said that he would seek compensation. But the road ahead was not smooth, indeed it was made bumpy because the State refused to assist.

Mr Spratt formally applied for his medical records last year.

Mr Spratt is being represented pro bono by lawyers from Herbert Smith Freehills. They had sought his treatment records from the Royal Perth Hospital and from Casuarina Prison.

They wanted these records in order to determine the extent of injuries sustained and therefore to determine the amount of compensation to be sought.

But in November 2012, they were surprised that the Department of Corrective Services (DCS), a State government body, refused to hand them over.

A complaint was lodged with the Information Commissioner Sven Bluemmel.

But it is understood that the newly appointed Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis called for a review of the case and the department’s decision and subsequently the DCS reversed its decision – last week.

It is understood that the DCS had pushed the line that the records could have revealed confidential security procedures but it is now understood that the DCS will work alongside Mr Spratt’s lawyers to keep confidential any such security information – they could have done this from the beginning.

One of Herbert Smith Freehills partners Mal Cooke said to The West Australian newspaper today that the amount of compensation sought is yet to be determined.

“He has just had an operation on his shoulder,” said Mr Cooke.

“Until the surgeons can tell him how successful that was, he may or may not need to be further treatment.”

“Then there are the mental health issues that will in all likelihood need to be assessed again.”

Aboriginal peoples are distrustful of government bureaucracies, the WA Police and the criminal justice system said that it was about time Mr Spratt should be compensated but they despaired at the thought that Mr Spratt is only in with a chance “at some justice because he is fortunate enough to have CCTV footage.”

Noongar Rex Bellotti Sr has been fighting for what he believes is some long overdue justice and compensation for injuries sustained by his son, Rex Jr, who when he was 15 years old was struck by a police vehicle -March 6, 2009. The police officers said it was an accident but in any event there has been no compensation to date.

“Police cover each other’s backs. The CCC also slammed the police handling of the investigation of what happened to my son. That CCC’s findings were in October only months after my son was hit by a police car. How many years back is this now? We’ve got no support from the WA Police or from Government, what we have got is what Kevin Spratt got, layers of bureaucracy and closed doors, buck passing and cowardice.”

“Why should Aboriginal people trust police officers in this State? Why should anyone, black or white really trust our police when we know they don’t own up to mistakes? I know there are good and bad cops. But what I also know is that when they hurt someone, kill someone it is nearly always somehow an accident.”

“Well at least Kevin had the CCTV footage or he’d be where my family is stuck, in the prospect of no justice whatsoever,” said Mr Bellotti.

Noongar and law student Marianne Mackay agreed with Mr Bellotti. “Our people accidentally bump into someone and all of a sudden they are arrested. We get on a train and we are targeted. We do this or that and we are targeted. But if a police officer has a complaint lodged against him or her then all of a sudden the WA Police and the Police Union come out screaming for natural justice, that they’ll support them to the hilt and that we have to be mindful that police officers endure a tough lot.”

“For the record we all do.”

“If anyone lays a finger on a police officer the newspapers cover the story from end to end but if it is alleged a police officer has smashed into someone black or white then you might read two lines about it on say page 28.”

Shadow Attorney-General John Quigley who was pivotal in the bringing about of the Crimes and Corruption Commission inquiry into the tasering incidents said the DCS should never have refused Mr Spratt’s right to his own medical records. Mr Quigley said there had “never been any legal basis” for them to do so.

 

–       The writer of this article, Gerry Georgatos, declares an impartiality conflict of interest . He is a Phd researcher into Custodial Systems and Australian Deaths in Custody. He is a prison reform advocate and and supports the call for Independent Police Inspectorates.

          Gerry Georgatos organised the Rally for Humaneness, and was the rally’s MC, on 13.11.2010. The rally called upon the Corruption and Crimes Commission to investigate the tasering incidents on Mr Spratt. Mr Spratt made his first public appearance at the rally. The rally’s speakers included State shadow Attorney-General John Quigley, Mr Spratt, and the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Mick Gooda.

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