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July 16, 2024

Casino murder triggers investigation of police response

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Travel is about visiting someplace exotic, we’re told. Somewhere that looks, feels and tastes different, in a way that stirs our heart and stimulates our senses. But sit in the central business district of any global city today, and chances are it will look basically the same.

The alleged murder of a 40-year-old woman Sarah Miles in Casino in the early hours of Saturday, 29 June has triggered a critical incident investigation of the NSW Police response to the 000 call.

A triple zero call was made by concerned neighbours around 1.30am on Saturday morning, however, police did not acknowledge the call until 2.25am and arrived at the scene around 2.30am to find the 40 year old woman unconscious with serious head wounds.

NSW Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna said ‘She was unconscious but breathing [when police arrived]. Police assisted her and called for ambulance immediately. Ambulance arrived very shortly thereafter, but unfortunately her condition deteriorated and she died at the scene,’ according to the ABC.

31-year-old Dwayne John Creighton was charged with one count of murder and appeared in Lismore Magistrates court Sunday, this was adjourned and he appeared again on Monday morning when he was refused bail. It is understood that he was her partner. Creighton remains in custody and is due to appear at Lismore court on 28 August according to The Guardian.

NSW police minister, Yasmin Catley described the incident as ‘horrific’ and said that concerns around police response times required an investigation.

Police from the Tweed Byron Police District will investigate the incident including the response time, and why the incident was categorised as a priority three not higher by emergency dispatchers according to the ABC. This will also be subject to an independent review, according to a statement from NSW Police.

‘On 29 June 2024 a critical incident was declared by the NSW Police Force (NSWPF) in Casino. The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) was notified of the critical incident by the NSWPF,’ stated the LECC in a press release.

‘The NSWPF are investigating the circumstances of the incident and this investigation will be reviewed by the Professional Standards Command. The LECC is independently monitoring the investigation of the critical incident under Part 8 of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Act 2016 to ensure public confidence in the investigation.’

Sue Higginson MLC. Photo Tree Faerie.

Is police investigating the police enough?

Greens MP and spokesperson for Justice Sue Higginson has said ‘This is another tragedy that should have been avoided. Another woman’s death, in my home region and another domestic and family violence fatality where police took too long to respond.’

Ms Higginson has also questioned the effectiveness of the police investigating the police and whether the LECC has the power to effect the necessary change to save women’s lives. 

‘Once again the NSW government is allowing police to investigate where the police failed, surely enough is enough,’ she said. 

‘It seems that the [Police] Minister would like to pin the blame for this tragic death on triple-zero. She has called for an independent investigation, but in the same breath accepted that once again it will be the police who investigate the police. We know how this goes, we’ve relied upon this system for years and it is not changing anything. It’s not protecting people, helping police or keeping communities safe.

‘To get to the bottom of how this tragic death happened, the circumstances that led to it and why police responded too late, this investigation must at least be fully directed by the LECC independent oversight body and the police must fully cooperate. In reality the LECC does exceptional work but it has very limited powers. It has been shocking to watch as the Police routinely frustrates even basic LECC oversight measures, consistently refusing to cooperate in interviews and then astoundingly dragging the LECC through the courts to hide key evidence in Critical Incident Investigations. We shouldn’t have to stand for this from the police leadership team. They are letting down victims, their loved ones, police officers and the community as a whole.

‘Unfortunately, the NSW Police Force has proven incapable of investigating their own, especially in matters of domestic and family violence. In two-thirds of domestic violence investigations, officers do not comply with their own operating procedures and three-quarters of investigations into violent incidents are inadequate. This is not information that the police volunteer. We only understand the full extent of this problem because of LECC investigation. 

‘Despite the recent moral panic over police resources in regional areas, the truth is that Casino, and other country towns have ample police resources. The problem is how those resources are being used, and in this case of wrongful death, how they aren’t being used,’ she said.

‘Richmond Police District investigated just 19 of 67 misconduct complaints made by members of the public last year. There are legitimate and longstanding community concerns about the priorities of Richmond Police District. We have seen a rash of serious domestic violence offences, too often lethal and the deployment of police officers against non-urgent issues and non-dangerous people in the community. NSW needs a serious rethink of how and when the police are being used, the causes of crime and the culture of policing but Premier Minns has blocked efforts to have that conversation.

‘Police investigating police in NSW has roundly failed to improve policing and keep communities safer in this State. The police force is an enormous state institution based on hierarchy, power, lethal weapons and responsibility. If we want to see changes and improvements in policing, for police and the community, we need a system built on transparency and accountability and public trust, that will only come through an independent integrity and accountability body with teeth and muscle,’ said Ms Higginson.


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