05 August 2015
by Paul Bibby

NSW Police faces more wrongful detention claims

N.S.W Police arrest a protester in Sydney

The NSW Police Force is facing a series of civil claims running into the millions from adults who say they have been wrongly detained as a result of errors in the police database.

With the ink barely dry on a $1.85m settlement between the police and young victims of wrongful detention, it has emerged that the force is currently being sued by several adults for the same reason.

Fairfax Media has become aware of five separate civil actions which are currently before the courts or about to be filed, in which adults were allegedly arrested and imprisoned because the police database wrongly indicated that they were in breach of their bail conditions.

The combined legal and damages bill is expected to run into the millions.

One case involves an incident of wrongful detention which is alleged to have occurred in March this year, three years after the then NSW police minister Michael Gallagher declared that the database issues would be resolved within 12 months.

Another involves an Aboriginal man who was arrested during a protest in the Sydney CBD in November 2011.

The man, who cannot be named, was initially arrested for trespassing when he sought shelter from heavy rain under the open alcove next to the Reserve Bank in Martin Place, but was later released and the charge subsequently dropped.

Three weeks later he was allegedly confronted by police again at the protest site.

Based on information from the police database that allegedly indicated, incorrectly, that the man remained on conditional bail, the officers arrested him again and took him back to the police cells.

As he was taken from the site, a fellow protester is alleged to have yelled to police "his matter got dismissed today – there's been a snafu in the paperwork".

The arrest allegedly continued regardless.

The man is now suing NSW Police for aggravated and exemplary damages for false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution.

Legal sources say a number similar cases are also on foot, including a number relating to incidents after April this year.

This undermines the claim by NSW Police and the former minister that "significant work" has been done to address the problem.

The opposition spokeswoman for justice and police, Jodi McKay, said the government needed to guarantee that the problem would be fixed and provide a "hard and fast timeline of when".

"The government has had four years to fix this problem,"

Ms McKay said.

"Meanwhile, kids and adults have had their lives overturned and lawyers have picked up fat fees. Enough is enough."

A NSW Police spokesman said a "significant technical project" was under way to make sure information on the police database was "as accurate as possible".

"Work on this project is continuing to deliver a system that transfers and updates data in a timely and accurate fashion,"

the spokesman said.

"Like any data system, there is always scope for human error in data entry, nevertheless the project is designed cater for the tens of thousands of matters each year which have bail attached to them."