Gold Coast residents living in fear

Greg Stolz and Alison Sandy | From: The Courier-Mail   |  July 21, 2011 12:00AM | Click here for the online article

Organised crime
VIOLENCE: The crime scene at the third in a spate of recent Gold Coast shootings which the Queensland deputy premier has said is linked to organised crime. Picture: Mike Batterham Source: Gold Coast Bulletin

THE latest victim of the Gold Coast’s Underbelly-style crime wave may have been executed as revenge for sex crimes.

Police are believed to be investigating whether the victim, 36, was involved in crimes including child pornography.

They have not ruled out bikie gang or organised crime links.

The man was slain on one of the city’s busiest roads early yesterday in the Gold Coast’s third fatal shooting in less than two months. It is believed he was shot in the back.

The killings and a spate of other violent gun crimes have reinforced fears the strip is being over-run by armed thugs and crime gangs, despite police calls for calm.

An intruder bled to death in a Gold Coast hinterland street after being shot by a resident last week, while Gold Coast police officer Damian Leeding was slain during a hotel robbery in May.

Veteran criminal lawyer Bill Potts said the Coast was “awash” with drugs and guns, with almost 100 armed robberies this year alone.

But while senior police insist the Coast remains safe, residents have voiced fear at the rising violence.

The police union said shootings and serious crime were a weekly occurrence and “no one is safe”.

Yesterday’s shooting came as the State Government admitted it had slashed funding to the Gold Coast police district by $11 million last year.

Mayor Ron Clarke called for a zero-tolerance approach to crime on the Coast but Police Minister Neil Roberts said while there was “great concern”, police were responding.

Regional crime co-ordinator Superintendent Dave Hutchinson expressed concern at the spate of gun crimes but said most were committed by “specific groups” and the public should not be alarmed.

“Every day, we have thousands and thousands of people attend the Gold Coast. They come for the day and they leave without being confronted by any crime whatsoever,” Supt Hutchinson said.

“I would reassure the public that the average member of the public shouldn’t be concerned and we are putting as many resources as we can into finalising this matter.”

But veteran local criminal lawyer Bill Potts said the Coast had become “crime central”.

“It’s become a sunny place for shady people,” he said.

“The place is awash with drugs and more and more people are packing guns.”

Former Gold Coast mayor Gary Baildon, whose family has lived on the Coast for almost 70 years, said he was disgusted at the crime hot-spot his city had become.

“The shortage of police on the Gold Coast is an absolute disgrace and I’m disgusted at the State Government for allowing this to happen,” he said.

Mayor Clarke said the Coast should follow the lead of New York and adopt a zero tolerance to crime but this would need State Government support.

Residents living near the murder scene said they were shocked and frightened at the rising tide of violence, including the slaying of police officer Damian Leeding during a hotel hold-up on May 29.

“It’s getting beyond a joke now isn’t it?” elderly widower Jesse Gorham said.

“There’s not enough punishment for minor crimes and then it snowballs.”

Another elderly resident, Brian Blanchard, said it was horrible to wake up and see the man’s body in front of his house.

“It’s getting pretty frightening out there,” he said.

Service station worker Daniel Baddour said police woke him at 4am to ask him if he had heard or seen anything.

“They said to me ‘somebody’s been murdered out the front’ … I was very shocked,” he said.

Earlier this month, an intruder bled to death in a Gilston street after being shot by a resident.

This week, a man was arrested at gunpoint at a Robina tavern after allegedly brandishing a loaded semi-automatic pistol in the bar.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said the latest shooting death on the Gold Coast further cemented its reputation as the nation’s crime capital.

“Gold Coast police have been under-resourced, under-staffed and overworked for too long and the rubber band can only be stretched so far,” he said.

Revelations that the State Government had slashed the region’s policing budget would only make conditions tougher.

Police Minister Neil Roberts admitted “great concern” about the Coast’s crime spree but said said police were responding.

He said a new Gold Coast-based violent crime squad set up after Sen-Constable Leeding’s murder was getting results.

Opposition police spokesman and Surfers Paradise MP John-Paul Langbroek said drug crime on the Coast had “exploded” and police morale was “terrible”.

Gold Coast’s best cop fined for drink-driving

13/07/2011 | 03:10 PM | click here to read the article online

Gold Coast’s best cop fined for drink-driving

A police officer named the Gold Coast’s best has been fined for drink-driving.

But the officer dodged a conviction that could have resulted in him being kicked out of the force.

Constable Michael Froggatt, who won Rotary’s Gold Coast policeman of the year award in 2010, pleaded guilty to driving with a blood alcohol reading of 0.085 on Sunday.

Magistrate Terry Duroux decided not to record a conviction, something that would have ended Froggatt’s policing career.

Mr Duroux noted Froggatt still faces police disciplinary proceedings, which could result in sanctions, loss of rank and a pay cut.

Froggatt’s lawyer Bill Potts argued against a police prosecutor’s call for a conviction to be recorded.

“The police force is not an organisation of perfection,” he told the Southport Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

“It is made up of individuals who carry the same human failings, weaknesses and traits all flesh is heir to.”

Mr Potts said his client, who has been stood down from active duty, had expressed “real and palpable regret” for his actions.

He knew he’d let himself, the public and the Queensland Police Service down, the lawyer said.

While not trying to excuse his client’s actions, Mr Potts said the officer had just completed two 13-hour shifts and was due back at work 11 hours later.

“We ask a lot of our police officers,” Mr Potts said.

Last year Froggatt was honoured with the Rotary Gold Coast Police Officer of the Year Award.

“I am aware my actions in this incident have brought dishonour to myself, my family and my fellow officers,” Froggatt said in a letter of apology, read to the court.

“I wish to bring no further disrespect to the Queensland Police Service.”

Mark Williams represents a client charged with drug-driving whose charge is ultimately dismissed

Greg Stolz | From: The Courier-Mail  | July 02, 2011 – Click here to read the article online.

cop

OVERDOSE: Police officer Lynette Jones escaped a drug-driving charge after her lawyers successfully argued she didn’t know what she was doing because she had taken the controversial sleeping drug Stilnox. Picture: Kate Czerny Source: Gold Coast Bulletin

A SUSPENDED Gold Coast policewoman has beaten a drug-driving charge after her lawyers successfully argued she was “sleep-driving” and did not even know she was at the wheel.

Police scenes-of-crime officer Senior Constable Lynette Jones was charged with drug-driving after crashing her car into a power pole near her Worongary home in March last year while off-duty.

Southport Magistrates Court was told she had overdosed on 18 sleeping pills washed down with a bottle of wine.

She pleaded not guilty in Southport Magistrates Court where her lawyers successfully argued that her body was acting independently of her mind when she drove the vehicle.

The prosecution argued Sen-Constable Jones had experience with the insomnia medication Stilnox and knew how the pills affected her, but took them anyway on the night of the crash, which happened only 100m from her home.

Defence barrister Michael Byrne, QC, told the court there was “no record of her being warned about the side-effects of the drug or the effects of mixing it with alcohol”.

Mr Byrne argued that, at the time of the crash, she could not have been criminally responsible for her actions because she was effectively sleep-driving.

Evidence of sleep-driving had been raised by a key prosecution witness, forensic medical expert Dr Anne-Louise Swain, who said Sen-Constable Jones was not warned about the potential effects of Stilnox.

Magistrate Terry Duroux agreed and dismissed the charge, saying Sen-Constable Jones had not been in her right mind. Sen-Constable Jones has been suspended from the Queensland Police Service without pay since being charged. Outside court, her lawyer, Mark Williams, said she had sought legal advice about her future with the QPS.

“Obviously, this is a big win for her it’s something that she’s been quite anxious about for a long time,” he said.

Asked what Sen-Constable Jones had learned from the experience, Mr Williams replied: “Not to give up if there’s something worth fighting for, keep fighting for it.”

In 2007, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration issued updated warnings about the effects of Stilnox including “rage reactions, worsened insomnia, confusion, agitation, hallucinations and other forms of unwanted behaviour”.

It also warned of “sleep walking, driving motor vehicles, preparing and eating food, making phone calls or having sexual intercourse” while asleep and on the drug. “People experiencing these effects have had no memory of the events,” the TGA stated at the time.

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Ex-cop cleared after ‘CMC witch-hunt’

A FORMER Gold Coast police officer cleared of faking evidence to win a traffic case has claimed he was a victim of a Crime and Misconduct Commission witch-hunt.

David Allan Spedding, 42, lost his job as a Surfers Paradise traffic officer in 2008 after he was accused of making a false statement to the court.

CMC investigators alleged Mr Spedding had intended to deceive the courts by providing photographs of a Surfers Paradise traffic intersection.

The Southport Magistrates Court was told the photos were later revealed to have been taken five months after May 4, 2008, the date he fined driver Anthony Reading for failing to give way at a green light.

Defence lawyer Bill Potts said Mr Spedding was not trying to pervert justice, only to show there was no green arrow at the traffic lights.

Magistrate Michael O’Driscoll upheld Mr Potts’ no case submission and discharged Mr Spedding of one count of attempting to pervert justice.

The magistrate said the photographs were not integral to the case and were simply intended to be used as a ‘visual aide’.

He was satisfied that no jury properly instructed could find the former officer guilty.

“There is insufficient evidence to prove he intended to pervert the course of justice,” he said.

Outside court Mr Spedding said he was vindicated by the result and intended to seek compensation for years of “continual harassment by the CMC”.

“I do believe (the CMC) is trying to justify their position,” he said.

“It’s a continuation of their chase for a pinch and pure waste of tax-payers’ money.”

Mr Spedding, who now resides in central Queensland, said he did not intend to return to the police service and now worked as a firefighter.

Article by: Leah Fineran – GOLD COAST BULLETIN