Australia: Police protect their own again (2)

A DETECTIVE at the centre of a prisoner cash-for-favours scam unlawfully detained a suspect, disregarded police guidelines and lied to anti-corruption fighters. But the Queensland Police Service last year determined that counselling Senior-Sergeant Graham Richards about his conduct was punishment enough.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission found damning evidence against Rockhampton's Sen-Sgt Richards, Senior Constable Jo-Anne Arthur and Sergeant Stephen Crouch in the case against Ann Aboud, who was jailed for murder in 2001 but acquitted in 2004. The CMC's findings against Sen-Sgt Richards, which can be revealed for the first time, comes just days after The Courier-Mail reported that four detectives had been paying prisoners to falsify witness statements. Sen-Sgt Richards has been suspended with pay over the current investigation, codenamed by the CMC as Operation Capri. Two Brisbane detectives also have been stood down and another one has been suspended with pay.

It's alleged the foursome, who are believed to have varying roles in the scheme, used Australia Post outlets to pay prisoners as much as $1000 to provide false witness statements against other suspects. The CMC yesterday released a statement about Operation Capri, saying that it started a "series of pro-active and covert inquiries . . . into allegations involving possible police misconduct" in 2005. "In part the investigations extend to issues involving the propriety of certain relationships between police officers and convicted criminals."

The statement said Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson had been briefed on the matter which was unlikely to be finalised for "some months". Four months after Operation Capri began, the CMC handed down its findings into Ms Aboud's matter. It found: "The conduct of the various officers does not constitute a criminal offence, however, there is sufficient evidence to warrant consideration of disciplinary action against each of the three officers." It said Sen-Sgt Richards failed to comply with police guidelines and the Police, Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000; unlawfully detained Ms Aboud and lied to CMC investigators during a disciplinary interview.

Sen-Const Crouch was found to have failed to have complied with legislative requirements for obtaining an order for extension of Ms Aboud's detention and for obtaining a telephone warrant. The CMC also made recommendations for procedural change

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