NSW Police officer who Tasered 95-year-old once detained and recorded a man illegally: court

NSW Police officer who Tasered 95-year-old once detained and recorded a man illegally: court

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The police officer who Tasered a 95-year-old great-grandmother once unlawfully detained a suspect during an encounter in which his shift partner allegedly threatened to break the man’s legs.

The 2020 incident earned a rebuke from a “horrified” Canberra magistrate who said the conduct of the two officers was “outrageous” and “unprofessional”.

Clare Nowland, 95, was Tasered by police while she was holding a knife.

Clare Nowland continues to cling to life in hospital after being Tasered at the Yallambee Lodge aged care facility in Cooma last Wednesday.

NSW Police said Nowland was armed with a steak knife in the early hours of the morning and refused to co-operate with staff before police were called to the facility.

“Negotiations commenced with Clare to essentially drop the knife. For whatever reason, Clare did not do that,” Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter said on Friday. Cotter told reporters Nowland had been moving “at a slow pace” with a walking frame.

The great-grandmother was Tasered once and fell over, striking her head. She remains in critical condition and is understood to be receiving end-of-life care.

The senior constable, who has about 12 years’ experience, is not charged and the matter remains under internal investigation by NSW Police. He is being supported by members of the local area command.

In April 2020, the same senior constable was one of two NSW Police officers who confronted a man on a motorbike in a service station in Hume, just across the border in the Australian Capital Territory.

The NSW officers suspected the rider, Allan Watts, was drug affected and detained him until Australian Federal Police from the ACT arrived to arrest him. The rider was later charged with driving while disqualified and possessing a knife in public.

Watts’ solicitor, Tom Taylor, defended his client by successfully arguing the NSW officers had gone outside their jurisdiction and did not have the power to detain him or to record him on body-worn cameras.

The defendant’s legal team also argued in court that one of the officers had told Watt they would “break your legs” if he tried to flee the scene. This exchange was allegedly recorded on body cameras.

The officer who allegedly threatened Watts was not the officer who deployed his Taser at Yallambee Lodge and was not present at that incident.

ACT magistrate Bernadette Boss ruled the body-worn video footage from the NSW officers was inadmissible and dismissed the charges, calling the police conduct “outrageous”.

Boss reportedly told the court she was surprised that interstate police officers “think they can stride around this territory and act as vigilante enforcers”.

“I’m horrified by the conduct of these officers,” she said.

The senior constable’s body-worn video will once again be crucial to an investigation as NSW homicide detectives conduct a critical incident probe into what happened at the Yallambee nursing home.

Cotter described the footage as “confronting” and said it would not be released to the public.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb has said she did not intend to watch the footage.

“It may be the case in the future where I have to make a determination based on a brief of evidence without being tainted by having seen a part of the brief without context,” Webb told 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Monday.

Webb also defended a media release published by police last week which omitted any mention Nowland had been Tasered.

The media release said a 95-year-old had been injured during an “interaction with police”.

“Mrs Nowland has a large family and we didn’t want that family to hear on radio or on TV what had happened to their mum, and so we had to be sensitive to that and when we were able to talk about it, we did,” Webb told Fordham.

Opposition police spokesman Paul Toole on Monday urged the government to release the investigation once it was complete, saying the case had raised serious concerns and ignited public outrage which had prompted the need for “accountability and clarity for this case”.

Toole also called for a review of existing policies and protocols, particularly when dealing with the elderly and dementia patients.

NSW Premier Chris Minns has refused to back the public release of the critical incident investigation, which is launched whenever a police operation results in death or serious injury.

Comment has been sought from NSW Police.

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