Heavy-handed police treatment of a Palm Island couple whose home was raided following the community’s notorious riots has been criticised by three judges.
The Court of Appeal awarded David Bulsey $165,000 and his former partner, Yvette Lenoy, $70,000 in damages on Tuesday for trauma suffered during and after a November 2004 dawn raid by police.
Mr Bulsey was dragged into the street handcuffed and partially clothed by armed and masked police, and held for days on charges that were later dropped.
His then-heavily pregnant partner, Ms Lenoy, was intimidated and detained briefly at gunpoint during the arrest, which occurred in front of their young children.
In overturning a February Supreme Court ruling against the pair’s claim, Justice Roslyn Atkinson said the treatment breached the couple’s “most fundamental human right, the right to personal liberty”.
“(They) were not treated as one might expect in a civilised society governed by the rule of law,” Justice Atkinson wrote in a judgment published on Tuesday.
Fellow judge Duncan McMeekin said a deliberate decision had been made to treat the couple as dangerous criminals with “no regard whatever” for their dignity and rights.
And according to Justice Hugh Fraser, Mr Bulsey had been seriously wronged, while Ms Lenoy had been made “a frightened and shocked prisoner in her own home”.
Mr Bulsey had been on a list of men to be arrested following violent rioting on the north Queensland island a week after the death in custody of resident Mulrunji Doomadgee.
All charges were later dropped, and Mr Bulsey and Ms Lenoy sued the state for damages for assault and false imprisonment.
The Supreme Court dismissed the claims in February this year, more than two-and-a-half years after the trial – an “extraordinary” delay, Justice Fraser said.
He and his fellow judges found errors were made by the trial judge and they upheld both appeals.