The mother of an eight-year-old boy Aboriginal boy who was locked in the back of a police paddy wagon at Coraki for more than an hour last April claims it was the first time he had been ‘picked up’ by police.
Senior constables Michael Writer and Brian Quinn were both charged with police officer neglect to carry out any lawful order and leaving a child in a motor vehicle causing emotional distress.
But hearing before Magistrate Jeff Linden at Lismore Local Court yesterday heard police told the boy’s mother that day, April 13, he had also previously been caught throwing a rock through a window at Coraki hospital.
‘He has always been a quiet boy…he’s a shy boy,’ his mother, who can’t be identified for legal reasons, said.
When Coraki Sergeant Dean Childs got a message about rocks being thrown at a council car at the sewage treatment works ‘about’ 1.10pm, both senior constables attended.
They picked up and dropped home several boys, and despite being told the eight-year-old was staying with his aunt while his mother was at work,the officers drove back to the police station about’ 2pm.
Both Senior Constables then went to Evans Head, in a different police vehicle to help another officer at a job, forgetting they had left the eight-year-old boy in the paddy wagon.
That was until sergeant Childs phoned Snr Cnst Writer when the boy’s mother went to the police station after she was phoned by his aunt.
‘She told me he’d been put in the bull wagon,’ the boy’s mother said.
‘F**k sarge, check the back of the truck,’ Snr Cnst Writer said to Sgt Childs, while the boys mother waited anxiously at the police station.
When the boys mother saw him climb out of the back of the paddy wagon she was emotional and angry.
‘I cried, I was screaming,’ she said.
‘I was yelling this is not right, why did you do this to my child.’
Sergeant Childs said when he opened the police vehicle for the boy to get out, a fan in the rear caged section was on, but in his taped police interview played as evidence, the boy said it was off.
Both Sgt Childs and the boy’s mother said he was red in the face when he got out of the paddy wagon.
In his taped interview, which was played because he declined to give evidence via videolink from a remote room, the boy said he was hot and tired while in the police vehicle.
‘There’s a little hole down the bottom,’ he said.
‘I breathed through it.’
When asked why, the boy replied ‘I couldn’t breathe…I breathed through the little hole.’
After consoling her son, when police asked the boy’s mother if she wanted an ambulance she said ‘we can get our own f**king ambulance.’
Sergeant Childs said the boy’s mother was ‘quite upset and hysterical’ and he told her the incident would be reported to a duty officer.
Duirng this time the boys mother also tried to call Legal Aid.
‘I tried to call but I was too upset,’ she said.
Concerned for the boy’s welfare, Sergeant Childs said Snr Cnst Writer phoned about 10 minutes after he got out of the paddy wagon and he told him the boy was ok.
‘I know we f**ked up and we will be in trouble but as long as he is ok that’s all that matters,’ Sgt Childs said Snr Cnst Writer said.
Duty Officer Inspector Doug Conners went to Coraki police station that afternoon and said the officers were very concerned for the boy’s welfare and not the consequences of their actions.
‘Senior Constable Writer particularly sounded very distressed on the phone,’ he said.
Police vehicles could be used to detain people for periods of more than an hour, Insp Conners said, which was common with children who were arrested and detained in the Richmond Local Area Command.
Both Insp Conners and Magistrate Jeff Linden agreed any child arrested and detained from the region would spend more than hour in the back of a police vehicle when being transported to Grafton’s Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre.
Under re-examination by Crown Prosecutor Karl Prince, the boy’s mother admitted saying to Insp Conners and Sgt Childs that she wanted Snr Cnst Writer punished.
She also gave evidence she had been caught drink driving by Snr Cnst Writer before, and she didn’t like him.
You hear about people being fined for leaving kids in cars, the boy’s mother said.
‘As soon as I saw him (her son), I knew it wasn’t right what they had done,’ she said.
‘I think it’s very cruel to do that to children.’
The hearing continues today.