A man detained by police during a raid kneels on the ground in Sydney on September 18, 2014. Photo: Reuters TV Police are seen inside a house during a raid in Sydney, in this still image taken from a police handout video on September 18, 2014. Photo: Reuters TV
Members of the NSW and Federal police acted unlawfully when they arrested and searched a Muslim-Australian woman during last year’s pre-dawn counter terrorism raids, a magistrate has found.
The 24-year-old woman, who cannot be named, was charged with assaulting and intimidating police in the execution of their duties after heavily armed officers ordered her out of bed in the early hours of September 18 last year during the largest counter terrorism raids in Australia’s history.
The woman was then taken outside onto the nature strip of her home before police called in a white female police officer to search her as numerous male police looked on.
The female officer, Senior Constable Stacey Gwyn, told Parramatta local court that, as she approached her, the young woman yelled “Don’t you touch me, you dogs, you have no right to search me!”
As Senior Constable Gwyn began the search the woman allegedly screamed “you’ll be the first one in uniform to have your throat slit”.
When the officer tried to take the woman’s mobile phone, she allegedly said “you can’t have my phone … don’t you touch it, you whore … you’re a Christian, you will burn”.
As a male police officer physically restrained the woman so that Senior Constable Gwyn could continue the search, the 24-year-old woman allegedly punched him once in the face.
But when the matter came before Parramatta local court, it emerged that the woman was not named on the search warrant and was not shown paperwork accompanying the warrant as required by law.
While police had the authority to enter the premises, they did not have the authority to arrest, detain or search the woman without reasonable suspicion.
The woman’s barrister, Steven Boland, argued that his client had no involvement with terrorism or any other criminal offence and police had no reason to suspect otherwise.
“The degree of her wrongdoing at the time that the police demanded that she withdraw from her bedroom was to be asleep in her bed,” Mr Boland told the court.
On Monday, Magistrate Margaret McGlynn found that searching the woman was unlawful and that, thus, at the time of the alleged punch and intimidatory comments, the officers were not acting in the execution of their duties.
She found that, while the woman’s comments were “very offensive”, “religiously loaded” and “disproportionate” to the illegal actions by the police, the charges against her must be dismissed.
Speaking after the decision, the woman’s solicitor, Penelope Purcell, said her client was pleased with the decision.
“I can’t understand why they would bring charges at all against this woman in all those circumstances,” Ms Purcell said.
Fairfax Media understands that the 24-year-old woman is likely to seek an order that NSW Police pay her legal costs.