A kneecapping is a small price to pay to clear a drug debt. Graphic: Liam Phillips
No one will ever confuse police press releases with literature, but within the leaden language and excessive caution of ''policespeak'' there are jewels that can be sifted from the jargon. Like, for instance, the unusual propensity of people to be shot in the leg.
Why so many shootings in the thigh? Why so many shootings?
Here is an explanation from a police confidant: ''For a long time there has been a system whereby an indebted drug dealer is shot in the leg by his creditor. When we interview him, he claims he was shot by someone unknown to him. He then makes a claim for criminal injuries compensation.
Illustration: Michael Mucci
''With gunshot wounds, the chances are good of receiving a payment. A successful claim can be over $20,000. The drug dealer has saved face by shooting the guy who ripped him off. He has also recovered his money. The drug user keeps any balance from the compensation payment. This has been going on for more than a decade now. The NSW taxpayer is effectively bailing out drug businesses with cash compensation.''
Last year, the Victims Compensation Tribunal paid out more than $63 million. How much of this was undeserved?
When I contacted the NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, I was told the problem is real. Far from downplaying the issue, the Attorney-General is furious.
''Every dollar we spend paying compensation to these criminals reduces the funds available for innocent victims of violent crime that want to get on with their lives rather than profit from dishonesty,'' he said.
The Attorney-General wants to close loopholes that make a mockery of the intent of the law. He also wants to make the system less about what he calls ''blood money'' and more about directly paying for treatment for victims. He has commissioned a review, due in June.
The police source who alerted me to the problem informed me why this issue has festered so long.
''I wrote to the Victims Compensation Tribunal about specific investigations, warning that compensation should not be paid as the woundings were the product of the criminal conduct by the allegedly 'innocent' victims. Other detectives did the same.
''I also wrote to the previous government pointing out what was occurring. I wrote on several occasions but received no response. There was a total lack of interest.''
When I asked him why, he wrote that certain Labor politicians ''relied on the Middle Eastern vote. Rocking that boat or tarring the Middle Eastern community publicly was a bad move politically.''
Even with the Attorney-General engaged and forthright, don't expect this to be easy. We are, after all, talking about the courts. One only need look at a case pending before the NSW Supreme Court where the Victims Compensation Fund has appealed a ruling by a District Court Judge, Leonard Levy, made on February 12.
In Lynch v Victims Compensation Fund Corporation (2012), a man with a criminal record for dishonesty and drug-dealing sought compensation after being assaulted during a home invasion by two men who ransacked his house. One of the offenders, after being arrested, admitted they went to the house looking for drugs and to warn the victim to stop selling drugs in their territory. Neighbours confirmed to police that they believed the house was used for drug-dealing.
The victim denied he had been dealing in drugs, claimed to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and sought compensation from the Victims Compensation Tribunal. The tribunal, after assessing the evidence of police, neighbours and the victim's criminal record, denied compensation. It also found he had made a false statutory declaration.
Lynch appealed. Judge Levy ruled in his favour. These were the key reasons set out in the judgment: ''[W]hat the Tribunal took to be opinion evidence … was based on hearsay or rumour and did not constitute evidence in the commonly accepted sense … unattributed, unparticularised, and unchallengeable hearsay as to what some unidentified neighbours of the appellant had said of him was relied upon by the tribunal …
''The tribunal's decision to rely upon the appellant's distant-in-time criminal conviction … was [also] unjustified because of a lack of temporal connection to the events of the home invasion.''
This matter will now roll on to the Supreme Court after already taking four years, so far, and thousands of dollars in legal and administrative costs. And so the open contempt for police by criminals rolls on, buttressed by court decisions.
On Thursday, a former Nomads bikie gang boss, Scott Orrock, was released on bail despite being charged with torching a police patrol van that had been parked outside his tattoo parlour. Orrock had even allegedly threatened police that he would destroy the vehicle.
Yet magistrate Julie Huber granted bail because Orrock's tattoo business, Skin Deep in Newtown, might fail if he was incarcerated for a prolonged period. She also considered argument that Orrock would suffer excessively in prison because he has post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia.
Early on Friday, 160 police raided 18 Sydney premises linked to members of the Hells Angels and Nomads. Two firearms were seized, two arrests made, and a variety of weapons were taken as evidence.
On Saturday, a senior member of the Bandidos motorcycle gang, whose tattoo parlour had been sprayed with gunfire last week, was wounded in a shotgun attack in a shopping centre on the Gold Coast. A woman bystander received a shotgun wound. Police are searching for a man they describe as a Pacific Islander with muscular build and a full neck tattoo.
There will be more of such incidents, and one reason this will continue is that our overly pedantic, excessively technical, grindingly slow and morally other-worldly court system offers such a happy hunting ground for both cynical criminals and their cynical lawyers.
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