Trevor Veale

Police back down on claims Aboriginal man punched officer

FOUR policemen who claimed they saw a young Aboriginal man punch a fellow officer in the face during a struggle at the Ballina watchhouse have now admitted they were mistaken.

Corey Barker, 23, was charged with serious assault of a police officer after he allegedly punched Senior Constable David Hill in the nose while he was being moved to the back cells in January, 2011.

The charge was later thrown out of court after a magistrate found no evidence of the assault on CCTV footage which was then referred to the Police Integrity Commission.

Since the PIC hearing began in Sydney last week, Constable Luke Mewing, Senior Constable Ryan Eckersley, Constable Lee Walmsley and Senior Constable Mark Woolven, have conceded that after viewing the CCTV footage, they realised there was no evidence Barker hit Sen Const Hill as they had originally said in their statements.

All have also admitted to having seen the statements of other officers before they made their own or were called to give evidence in court.

Const Walmsley, who was still a probationary officer when the incident occurred, said in his original statement that he had seen Barker hit Sen Const Hill in the nose and then continue to throw punches during the struggle.

Asked to explain why that did not appear on the footage, Const Walmsley said.

"My recollection states that it did happen, and that's how I remember it".

Counsel assisting the Commission Stephen Rushton noted that parts of Const Walmsley's statements were "word perfect and punctuation perfect" with Sen Const Hill's and Const Mewing's statement and suggested the officer had "oust transferred material out of another officer's statement" and put it in his.

Const Walmsley replied "well that's what happened, yes".

When Sen Const Hill took the stand late yesterday, he maintained he had been assaulted by Barker.

He maintained that in the lead up to the struggle Barker had continued to yell out words like "get f**** - I'm going to punch you in the f***** head when I get the chance - I'll king hit you..."

While he accepted the footage did "not show the punch that I remember", Sen Const Hill recalled having a sore nose after the incident and checking to see if it was bleeding.

He questioned "whether the angle of the footage didn't capture it?" and said that at the time, other officers had told him they had seen the assault occur.

He remembered Const Mewing saying "Yeah, Hilly, I saw him crack ya".

Asked if he could explain why his colleagues had all said they saw the assault and then acknowledge they were wrong, Sen Const Hill replied "I have no idea what other people have used or done when writing their own statements or why they've said they've seen something if they haven't".

He said he had not had any contact with the officers or told them what to say.

He denied having any knowledge Barker was already on a suspended sentence for seriously assaulting a police officer when he took him to the watch house.

It was only later in the night, Sen Const Hill said, the suspended sentence was "for king hitting a cop at Byron Bay".

The hearing continues.

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