Constable admits: man did not assault police officer
Evidence identical to others ... Luke Mewing. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
A POLICE officer who gave sworn evidence that a young Aboriginal man punched a fellow officer in the face has admitted before the Police Integrity Commission the attack never took place.
Instead, the Ballina constable, Luke Mewing, and fellow officers slammed the man into a wall before dragging him by his handcuffed arms into a cell.
Constable Mewing also acknowledged his written statement about the event included sections copied directly from a more senior officer's version of events after statements were shared to ''refresh our memories''.
Smashed up against a wall ... Corey Barker.
The commission is investigating allegations that Corey Barker, 24, was assaulted at Ballina police station on January 14, 2011, after an altercation with police, and that officers then falsely accused the young man of assaulting them.
Evidence was heard suggesting that Constable Mewing had colluded with fellow officers, knowingly given false evidence before a magistrate, and was then instructed by a former officer to explain his actions in terms of nerves and inexperience.
In an exchange with counsel assisting the commission, Stephen Rushton, SC, Constable Mewing admitted Mr Barker had never struck a fellow officer, Senior Constable David Hill, at Ballina police station on the far north coast.
''In circumstances where this young Aboriginal man wasn't assaulted, he was smashed up against the wall?'' Mr Rushton asked.
''Yes,'' Constable Mewing replied.
''In circumstances where Corey Barker hadn't assaulted anyone you nevertheless used a … knee strike on him?'
''It appears that Constable Ryan Eckersley was stomping or kicking near Mr Barker's head, not in accordance with police procedure.''
''He was then dragged to the cells in a manner that must have been extremely painful.''
The constable then conceded he had erroneously claimed in his formal police statement, and then in Ballina local court, Mr Barker had assaulted his colleague.
Constable Mewing denied he had deliberately lied in this evidence, saying that ''at the time I believed that was what happened'' as he had not yet seen the CCTV footage of the incident.
However, the commission was then shown an email sent to Constable Mewing and other officers before they gave evidence in court, informing them that Mr Barker's lawyers were going to argue that there was ''no clear evidence of Barker punching Hill''.
The commission heard that the statements of Senior Constable Hill, Constable Lee Walmsley and Constable Mewing contained a number of sections which were ''precisely identical'', right down to the punctuation used.
Constable Mewing told the commission that he had been told in training that, when preparing a formal statement, it was acceptable to use parts of the statement of another officer.
''Who was it who gave you training that made you think it was appropriate to use sections of a senior officer's statement in your own?'' Mr Rushton asked.
''My field training officer,'' he replied.
The PIC then heard a recording of a phone conversation between Constable Mewing and a former police officer who cannot be named, in which the former officer advised him about how to explain his erroneous evidence to Ballina local court when he came before the commission.
'' … say well look you know I was extremely you know nervous I haven't given evidence much before … '' the officer says.