Shocking treatment … Michael Lindsay being ordered off the Dee Why bus before he was shot with a Taser.A golf day ended in the rough for Michael Lindsay. A few beers at hole 19 and a bus ride to his Freshwater home went from a 26th birthday celebration to being wrongfully arrested and shot with a Taser by police.
Mr Lindsay’s first mistake on May 27 last year was not producing his ticket fast enough for inspecting transit officers at Dee Why terminal at 7pm. The second, as he searched for his errant pass, was making a wisecrack that the four officers were a waste of taxpayers’ money.
One of the officers got upset about the jibe, and the builder apologised for being a ”smart-arse”. But his mea culpa was not enough and the officer called northern beaches police.
Three police officers boarded the bus and ordered Mr Lindsay off. When he got off the bus and went to walk away from police – shocked at how a joke could go so wrong (his third mistake) – things got much worse and potentially fatal.
The officer in charge, Constable Ryan Godfrey, drew his Taser and sent 50,000 volts into Mr Lindsay’s lower back. An ambulance was called and police charged Mr Lindsay with offensive language, resisting arrest and assaulting police.
But then police would go on tell a court their version of events.
Under cross examination at the Downing Centre Local Court on March 12, Constable Godfrey repeatedly said Mr Lindsay had and been ”loud and aggressive” towards officers on the bus.
He told the court that when Mr Lindsay was asked to leave the bus, ”He’s replied with words similar to, ‘This is f—ed, it takes f—ing four of you c—s to do this, this is f—ed.”’
Constable Godfrey then described a struggle on the footpath outside the bus when trying to handcuff Mr Lindsay. ”That was proving rather difficult. As I said, he’s of large stature. He was overpowering us.”
He then fired his Taser into Mr Lindsay’s lower back.
”After further police arrived to assist us, Constable [Sam] Parkinson approached me and said that he’d been assaulted by Mr Lindsay. He said he was elbowed in the face.”
When Mr Lindsay’s barrister, Greg Jones, asked Constable Godfrey if in fact his client had been polite and on the bus used the expressions ”please” and ”excuse me”, he replied, ”I don’t recall that.”
Constable Parkinson and Constable Christopher Gould along with four transit officers all corroborated Constable Godfrey’s story that Mr Lindsay was ”loud and aggressive”, intoxicated and using ”f— and c—” towards officers. The court was then shown a passenger’s mobile phone footage of what happened on the bus.
The footage, which will be central to Mr Lindsay’s upcoming District Court case for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution, tells a different story.
Indeed, it shows Mr Lindsay repeatedly using the phrases ”please” and ”excuse me” when addressing officers. At no point does he swear. A bus passenger is heard warning him not to swear at police, while another is heard saying to the police that Mr Lindsay had apologised to the transit officer. Mr Lindsay is seen getting off the bus without any aggression towards the police.
After the footage was shown to the court, the police prosecutor, Sergeant Grant Bucknell, immediately withdrew all the charges.
When quizzed by the court about the sudden change of heart, Sergeant Bucknell said that when Mr Lindsay was arrested, ”police officers had not heard [him] using offensive language”. Rather, Constable Godfrey had ”reconstructed what was heard from what he was told by the transit officers”.
The magistrate, Lee Gilmour, warned Sergeant Bucknell ”to stop mucking around”. ”I want to stop you for a moment before you say anything else because I don’t think it would be fair to place you in a situation of complicity in relation to trying to argue something that clearly was a lie and that’s what you’re doing.”
Sergeant Bucknell responded: ”I have nothing further to say.”
Ms Gilmour said the proceedings were based on ”bad faith” because Constable Godfrey lied under oath. She awarded $12,000 in costs to Mr Lindsay. ”The problem for the prosecution in this case is that … clearly, unfortunately, this officer has lied both as to what he said occurred and the basis upon which he [Mr Lindsay] was asked to move off the bus; there does not seem to be any lawful basis upon which he was,” Ms Gilmour said.
Despite Constable Godfrey repeatedly saying Mr Lindsay swore, the magistrate found the police had not heard any offensive language.
”The bus driver is clearly seen in some of the evidence before the court. He was not interviewed; nor was anybody independent of the transit police officers and that would seem to me, in these circumstances, to have been a deliberate omission,” she said.
Yesterday homicide squad detectives renewed their appeal for witnesses to the death of Roberto Laudisio Curti, a 21-year-old Brazilian student who died after police tasered him in Sydney’s CBD in March. A coroner’s investigation of his death continues.
According to NSW police policy, Tasers are only to be used in ”high-risk” cases to protect life, or when there is violent confrontation or an officer is being overpowered.
NSW police have begun an internal investigation of Constable Godfrey’s actions, as is standard procedure for failed police prosecutions. ”It has now been referred to the Professional Standards Command for investigation and will be oversighted by the NSW Ombudsman,” police said.’Mate, he’s done nothing; he’s apologised’
What the court heard
Cross examination of Constable Ryan Godfrey:
Q: So you said: ”Mate you’ve been asked to leave the bus”?
A: And he’s replied with words similar to ”This is f—ed, it takes four f—ing of you c—s to do this.”
Q: Can you describe his tone and volume?
A: It was loud, so it could be well heard on the bus.
Q: And his tone?
A: Loud and aggressive.
Q: When you boarded the bus you said, ”Jump off the bus, I’ll have a chat to you on the footpath,” … Mr Lindsay said, ”No, thank you.”
A: I don’t recall him saying ”no, thank you” …
Q: Can I clarify, don’t recall, don’t remember or it didn’t happen?
A: I don’t recall.
iPhone recording taken by a passenger on the bus:
Officer: Jump off the bus, I’ll have a chat to you on the footpath.
ML: No, thank you.
Officer: Well mate if you don’t jump off the bus …
Witness: Mate, he’s done nothing; he’s apologised.
Officer: No, he can come off the bus and chat to us because, I don’t appreciate your smart-arse comment so …
ML: Excuse me, what was my smart-arse comment?
Witness: Don’t swear at him, just don’t swear at him.
ML: I’m not.
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