Protester Gareth Devenish locked on under a Metgasco truck during the blockade at its Doubtful Creek CSG testing site last Tuesday. Photo Marie Cameron
An internal inquiry into police use of capsicum spray on a ‘lock-on’ protester has found its use was acceptable, claiming the man was not locked onto equipment and was resisting arrest at the time of the incident.
But the in-house police investigation into the incident has been slammed by NSW Council of Civil Liberties for it being conducted by police from the same local area command, and taking just two days to complete.
Echonetdaily reported exclusively last Wednesday that Gareth Devenish of Mullumbimby was sprayed directly in the eyes by police at close range and had ‘pain compliance techniques’ applied to him during a lock-on to the underside of a truck at the protest site the previous day.
Police allege Mr Devenish only locked on after being sprayed and was kicking at officers and resisting arrest.
But despite being arrested at the time, Mr Devenish has yet to be charged by police.
‘It’s very surprising that the police are now alleging the protester assaulted them. This allegation seems to have been made only after the incident has received media attention,’ Stephen Blanks, secretary of NSW Council for Civil Liberties, told Echonetdaily this morning.
‘The police are on a campaign to abolish the right to silence in NSW but in this particular case the police took the protester to the police station after the incident occurred and it would seem none of these allegations they now want to make were put to him at the police station, when they could have been.
‘If the right to silence was abolished in NSW, this is a clear case where the police evidence may be disbelieved because it wasn’t mentioned at the first available opportunity.’
Northern Rivers Guardians spokesman Scott Sledge told ABC’s AM program last Thursday that he was on the other side of the truck when Mr Devenish was sprayed, so he (Mr Sledge) yelled to police that they could ‘not do that as he was locked on and defenceless and that’s torture’.
The investigation’s finding also appears to fly in the face of strict police guidelines for the use of the spray, which are limited to: ‘protect[ing] human life, as a less lethal option for controlling people where violent resistance or confrontation occurs, or as protection against animals’.