With Roger Rogerson getting a life sentence today I thought it would be fitting to share this article I wrote back in 1994. It will along with other articles and interviews I did for Green Left Weekly and Sydney's Radio Skid Row in my new book A History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir. Part 2: What Is My Nation? History, Racism, Class, Justice & War. which I'm aiming to have at my publisher next month. It says something about those of us who campaigned against Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and were involved in campaign when Tim Anderson was framed for the Hilton Bombing. The quashing of Tim Anderson's conviction lead to the ICAC Inquiry into Police and Police Informers and this lead to the Police Royal Commission.
Unaccountable police and Aborigines, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 Green Left Weekly
Of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody's 339 recommendations, there was not one for charging a police or prison officer for murder.
At the annual John Pat protest march over Aboriginal deaths in custody on September 25 , the day after the 2000 Olympic decision had been announced, I asked Burraga Gutya (Ken Canning), an Aboriginal poet and lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, what he thought of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
He replied, "Shit — garbage — rubbish. Not one person's been charged, and there's been evidence of brutality against our people. There's been unanswered questions about how our people were found killed. Where are the policemen in jail on murder? All these people along the footpath ... think the royal commission's been good ... They don't know that the police that have done the killing are still in the police force."
Ted Pickering, the former police minister who defended the police killing of David Gundy in 1989, saying that he could understand his police being "up tight" and "edgy".
The Campaign Exposing Frame-Ups and Targeting Abuses of Authority wrote to Pickering in April 1990, when he was police minister, warning him not to promote these same three officers: Chief Superintendent Brian Harding, Chief Superintendent Dennis Gilligan and Chief Inspector John Burke. All three are former associates of disgraced ex-sergeant Roger Rogerson, and all worked closely with him in the old CIB's notorious armed hold-up squad. Pickering's response to CEFTAA was dismissive.
CEFTAA has set up a database on Australian police. The aim of this Alternative Bureau of Criminal Intelligence is to develop and maintain a body of information, particularly on corrupt serving police.
The ABCI files on the above senior police officers provide an insight into how unaccountable the NSW police force is.
1976: Drug dealer Neddy Smith says he paid Harding $20,000 to beat a charge of attempted robbery of Fielders Bakery.
1979: Fabricates a confession in a conspiracy case against several Croatian men; the chief witness later confessed to perjury, while in 1991 Harding's former colleague Roger Rogerson admitted his squad regularly fabricated confessions.
1980: The Corporate Affairs Commission accuses Harding of fabricating a document, after Jack Hiatt QC accuses Harding of perjury over Nugan Hand Bank affairs.
1981: Gives evidence supporting Roger Rogerson over the Dangar Place killing of Warren Lanfranchi.
1983: Fabricates confession against Ray Bronlowe, who was later acquitted of robbery charges.
1984: Taped with Burke, Gilligan and others in the process of planting half a pound of heroin on drug dealer David Kelleher; Kelleher is acquitted on this charge.
1984: Neddy Smith says he paid Harding $12,000 to prevent charges over the assault of a Sydney RSL bouncer; no charges were laid.
1989: Fabricates confession against George Savvas over the murder of Barry McCann; Savvas was acquitted of this charge in a trial in which Laurie Gruzman QC accused Harding of benefiting from the proceeds of McCann's heroin ring.
1989: Tells the media the day after David Gundy was shot dead by police that "a preliminary report has cleared the SWOS officer of any wrongdoing". Royal commissioner Hal Wooten concluded "at no stage did Harding face up to a real examination of the issues that arose in relation to police conduct".
1993: Harding, Burke and ex-cop Graham Bowen bugged by Federal Police as they discussed statements on two bribery matters before ICAC; all had been directed not to do this and had then lied under oath about the matter; ICAC charges pending.
John William Burke
1976: Neddy Smith says Burke demanded $10,000 for bail over an attempted robbery charge; Smith says he also paid Burke and Rogerson $10,000 to beat a gun charge.
8:th Gilligan and Bob Godden,fabricated "confession" and other evidence against Ross Dunn in the Ananda Marga conspiracy case; while Dunn was later pardoned, Burke went on to receive a bravery award and a Churchill fellowship to study terrorism.
1979: Involved in giving evidence of "confessions"in the Croatian conspiracy case.
1984: Named by Federal Police informer Stephen Bazley as involved with drug trafficking; Bazley's wife Louise later says she is loaded up hashish by Burke, and is acquitted of the charge.
1984: Taped with Gilligan, Harding and others in the process of planting half a pound of heroin on drug dealer David Kelleher; Burke lies at trial about inducements to a witness to give evidence against Kelleher; corrupt Detective John Openshaw quoted Burke as saying Kelleher had been "embarrassing too many people for too long" and "had to go"; Kelleher is acquitted of this charge.
1984: Barrister John Bettons accuses Burke of giving heroin to robbery suspect Mark Treloar at Eastwood Police Station; Treloar was taken to Ryde Hospital suffering from heroin overdose; however, Treloar pleads guilty to the robbery charge.
1989: In charge of the SWOS squad that killed David Gundy; Royal commissioner Wooten said, "The tunnel vision of and self-satisfaction of SWOS was manifest in Burke".
1993: Bugged by Federal Police while discussing bribery evidence with Brian Harding; Burke had previously denied on oath that he had done this; ICAC charges pending.
Dennis Martin Gilligan
1977: With Bob Godden gives evidence of the Nowra arrest of Edward "Jockey" Smith, in which the two claim to have just prevented Smith from shooting them; Smith receives a life sentence for this.
1978: With Bob Godden gives evidence of the Yagoona arrest of Ross Dunn, in which the two claim to have just prevented Dunn from killing them; their evidence is contradicted by independent witnesses. Gilligan, Godden and Burke then fabricate a "confession" by Dunn. Dunn is pardoned but Gilligan retains a bravery award.
1978: Fabricates a "confession" by Gregory McCarthy in an armed robbery trial; however, in his "verbal" Gilligan is exposed in having his suspect quote an error the bank made in reporting the amount stolen, and McCarthy is acquitted.
1979: Involved in fabricating confessional evidence against Anton Zvirotic in Croatian conspiracy case.
1981: With Rogerson and Burke, Gilligan writes to Sydney Morning Herald on June 10 to claim responsibility for the Ananda Marga conspiracy case and to tell the Herald not to "cast aspersions on the character and integrity of men who are serving this state and country".
1984: With Harding, Burke and others, taped in the process of planting half a pound of heroin on drug dealer David Kelleher.
1988: Appointed superintendent and made chairperson of interdepartmental committee supervising the introduction of videotaped police interrogations (the supposed safeguards against police "verbals").
1989: Confronted by Tim Anderson, the victim of two NSW police frame-ups, at a public meeting over his verballing and bashing of Ross Dunn in 1978.
1993-94: Being considered for appointment as assistant commissioner.
Gilligan, Harding and Burke are three of the most senior police in NSW, and their careers have benefited from the harsh law and order politics of both Labor and Liberal-National governments. The group which has suffered most has been the Aboriginal people.
Chris Cunneen, a lecturer in the University of Sydney Law Faculty, says, "Even now there's well over double the number of Aboriginal people in jail in New South Wales that there was in the late 1980s. This shatters the illusion NSW is a more civilised state. It is now a leading redneck state second only to West Australia."
Aboriginal people make up 1.3% of the state population yet they make up over 10% of the adult prison population.
I asked Arthur Murray, a field officer for the Aboriginal Legal Service, if there had been any death like that of his son Eddie in NSW, who was found dead in a cell in Wee Waa Police Station, strangled with a blanket with his feet on the ground, on June 21, 1981.
He had been picked up by the police one hour before his death under the Intoxicated Persons Act, a law used almost exclusively against Aborigines. The police said Eddie Murray hanged himself, but under cross-examination they agreed he was "so drunk he couldn't scratch himself". His blood alcohol level at the time of death was 0.3%, yet police maintained that Eddie had managed to tear a strip off a thick prison blanket, deftly fold it, thread it through the bars of a ventilation window, tie two knots, fashion a noose and hang himself without his feet leaving the ground.
One police officer admitted he had lied about being off duty that day, after he had been identified by four Aboriginal witness as one of the policemen who picked Eddie up. The coroner's inquest was informed of the serious discrepancies in police notebooks, with dates appearing out of order and the absence of some records altogether. Both the coroner and the Royal Commission found that Eddie Murray had died "at the hands of person or persons unknown", strongly criticised the police and left it at that.
Arthur's answer to my question was, "No Aborigine has died in similar circumstances since the royal commission. The royal commission has had some impact on the way Aboriginal people are treated in New South Wales, but in an indirect way, separate from its recommendations. Police who arrest Aboriginal people don't like having them in their lock-ups and transfer them as quickly as possible to the nearest prison. The overwhelming majority of deaths since the royal commission have been in prison."
The October 1993 Journal of the Australian Medical Association published an article by David McDonald from the Australian Institute of Criminology and Dr Neil Thomson from the Health Department of West Australia.
They reported that in the 10-year period from 1980-89 there were 527 deaths in police and prison custody in Australia, of which 108 were Aboriginal — 10 women and 98 men. McDonald and Thomson noted that the excess in numbers of Aboriginal deaths in police and prison custody, compared with general population numbers, is due to the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody.
The over representation in custody is due to Aboriginal people being over-policed. In Wilcannia, for example, which is overwhelming Aboriginal, there is one police officer for every 73 people. The ratio for Sydney's lower North Shore is one police officer to 1000 people.
This policy by the police has been long pointed out by Aboriginal people and largely ignored by the press. Aboriginal lawyer Paul Coe wrote in a paper to the Institute of Criminology in 1980, "The present relationships between Aboriginal people and the legal system with the police as agents can only be understood in the light of two centuries of oppression of Aboriginal people".
Tim Anderson says, "[N]o less than $500 million is being spent every year simply on policing, processing, jailing and at times murdering Aboriginal people. This is little short of a war on the Aboriginal population. Imagine what could be done with half a billion, every year, to build economic independence for Aboriginal communities, and so release them from the trap of poverty and over-policing."
What we are seeing with the Aboriginal people is the criminalisation of social problems such as poverty; this is compounded by institutionalised racism from police and prison officers.
Tim Anderson, Take Two, The Criminal Justice System Revisited, 1992
Tim Anderson, Take Two, The Criminal Justice System Revisited, 1992
“At the CIB Rogerson and another Detective named Howard eventually approached me and I said: "I'm not going to answer any questions, can you tell me what I'm being charged with?". Howard replied "Well slow down, you may not be charged with anything." I said "It's a serious thing to arrest someone and not charge them with anything." "Well we'd better charge you with something then, hadn't we?" he responded. Rogerson then approached and told me: "You are being charged with conspiracy to murder Mr Robert Cameron." I said nothing, as I took this in, but Rogerson continued, "You've had a pretty good run, but I think we've got enough to convict you now. I feel like giving you a good hiding; what do you say about that?" "There'd be consequences if you did that," I responded, indignantly. "What do you mean by that?" he asked angrily. "What would you do if I assaulted you?" I replied, rhetorically.”Rogerson jumped up and kicked over the chair I was on, saying, "You f______g c__t, are you threatening me?" I fell onto the floor, and he came alongside me, kicking me in the side. He repeated his question as he dropped his knee onto my diaphragm, stopping me breathing. I moved my hands onto his knee to remove the pressure and he drove his knee up into my chin. "Are you threatening me?" he demanded again, and I replied "I'm not threatening you". I noticed my lower lip was split……
Public and ABC radio we the boldest sector of the mass media in critically discussing issues of my case, both before and after the trial. Public radio journalists Adrian Flood, John Tognolini and Fiona Sewell ran investigative features on the case as it unfolded. ABC radio journalist Sharon Davis presented 'Background Briefing' reports on the Pederick story as well as Denning and prisoner‑informers, the latter being an important influence on the eventual decision to hold an ICAC inquiry into the prisoner‑informer issue.”