Two police officers who have pleaded not guilty to allegedly leaving an eight-year-old Aboriginal boy locked in the back of a police paddy wagon at Coraki for up to three hours last April will face a hearing today.
When Mundhra Williams and his cousins were allegedly throwing rocks and eggs at a car at the Coraki sewage treatment plant on April 13, police were called.
His cousins were taken home by police, but when the officer found out Mundhra’s mother Jane was at work, he returned to Coraki police station and allegedly left the eight-year-old locked in the back of the paddy wagon.
While Mundhra was locked in the police vehicle, his mother was told he had been picked up by police, and began frantically trying to find out where her son was.
Meanwhile, the officer who picked up Mundhra was called to a job at Evans Head and allegedly left him locked in the police vehicle, which was parked in the driveway of the police station.
After Mundhra was released, he was examined by paramedics and found to be unharmed.
Ms Williams complained to police about how he was treated and an investigation was launched, which was overseen by the NSW Ombudsman.
The story quickly gained national media attention and was published in everything from seniors newspapers to trucking magazines.
It even made news in the United Kingdom, where it was published online by the Daily Mail.
Following the investigation, the two police involved, senior constables Michael John Writer, 44, and Brian Michael Quinn, 33, were charged on October 13, and placed on restricted work duties.
‘Did neglect to carry out his lawful duty as a police officer, namely, by failing to take proper care and exercise due diligence in respect of an Aboriginal juvenile in custody,’ court documents for both men stated.
When they both appeared in Lismore Local Court on January 17 and entered not guilty pleas to both charges, Magistrate David Heilpern adjourned the matters for hearing on June 22 and 23.
Mr Heilpern noted on the court papers ‘remote room required’ which is a room separate from the court where witnesses can give evidence via videolink.
The maximum penalty for leaving a child unattended and locked in a car is a $22,000 fine.
The charge of police officer neglect/refuse/not carry out any lawful order carries a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units.
Each penalty unit is equivalent to a $110 fine.