THREE police officers stood aside a year ago following a violent arrest in Hamilton Hill have been exonerated by a final Corruption and Crime Commission report.
However, two of the colleagues who sent them into court unprepared and with patchy evidence have been disciplined after an Internal Affairs Unit investigation found their work wasn’t up to scratch.
The arrest of Colin Copperwaite and Jacqueline Briffa at Hobbs Park in December 2016 made headlines when witnesses filmed the officers repeatedly striking and kicking the couple during the arrest, even though Ms Briffa was already handcuffed and Mr Copperwaite appeared to be held down by an officer and a passer-by who’d stepped in to help.
When the case came before the court, most of the charges against Mr Copperwaite and Ms Briffa were dismissed, with magistrate Stephen Malley criticising police evidence as deliberately misleading.
That triggered the internal investigation, which found there was evidence backing some of the claims dismissed by Mr Malley – particularly that Ms Briffa had tried to grab Constable Charlotte Richardson’s gun – but it hadn’t been presented to court.
The investigators found that if Mr Malley had known the three officers were genuinely concerned about their own safety, as well as the nearby public, he might have drawn a different conclusion about the force they used in the arrest, which was in line with their police training.
Because of this oversight, Det Const Bethany May, who prepared the court brief, and Sgt Jo-Anne Zilko, who failed to review it as per her duties, received “verbal guidance” and were sent a “letter of corrective advice”.
The CCC, which kept an eye on the internal investigation, last week released a report backing its findings.
“The commission notes that WA Police Force is seeking to apply lessons learnt during this investigation to other matters involving prosecutions,” the report said.
The CCC recommended police proceed with the use of body cameras, saying they could have prevented a lot of the palaver surrounding Mr Copperwaite and Ms Briffa’s arrest.
by STEVE GRANT