A rather disturbing event occurred this evening that I would like to share with you all and get feedback on.
I was at Woden bus interchange at 6:20pm (9/4/13) and witnessed 3 Westfield security personnel chasing a young girl (approx. 15/16yrs old) through the interchange (the girl was walking fast but not running as such). Curious and with nothing better to do while waiting for my bus I followed them to see what what was going on. The security caught up with the girl at the eastern edge of the interchange and were joined by a 4th Westfield security guard and surrounded the girl preventing her getting away. At this point I didn’t think that was too unusual but thought i’d continue to observe while waiting for my bus.
While watching them the girl made 2 attempts to get past the guards and away from them, and on both occasions one of the guards (the same one both times) grabbed the girl by the arm, and in my opinion, dragged her quite aggressively and violently back into the middle of the circle the guards had formed. At this point I started taking photos on my mobile phone of what was going on as the manner in which the guard wrenched her by the arm seemed to constitute quite excessive force in my opinion and possibly consituted an assault on the girl, who was short and skinny and no match for the burly security personnel.
After about ten minutes 2 police officers approached the scene and I informed them that I was a bystander who had witnessed one of the guards violently wrench the girl by the arm, and was asked to wait to the side while they spoke to the people involved, which I did, standing about 5-6 metres back from the scene and patiently waiting to speak to one of the officers. Eventually I was approached by a Constable Cubbins who informed I could go. I stated I wanted my details recorded as a witness to the possible assault on the girl involved. Constable Cubbins refused to take my details, and then demanded to see the photos I had taken on my phone, obviously informed of this fact by the security guards as I had not mentioned taking photos to the officers when I first approached them myself.
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I complied, showing the officer the three photos I had taken, at which point Constable Cubbins ordered me to delete the photos from my phone (note the photos were only of the security guards and girl, not of the police officers themselves, not that this should make a difference though). I initially refused, stating that my understanding was I had every right to have taken the photos and that he did not have the right to order me to delete them.
At this point Constable Cubbins stated that if I did not delete the photos he would confiscate my phone as evidence. Not wanting to lose my phone (although I was sure this was just an intimidation tactic to get me to comply), I informed Constable Cubbins that I would delete the photos as he had demanded – and proceeded to do so – but that I would be following up the next day in regards to this demand, as I believed he had no legal right to force me to do this. I stated for the record my objection to being forced to delete the photos.
At this point Constable Cubbins simply walked off and proceeded to escort the girl towards the police station with the other officer, leaving me with no option but to go and get my bus home, feeling quite intimidated and angry at my perception that Constable Cubbins had no right to have ordered me to delete the photos. Having done some research online now, I believe that I did have every right to have taken the photos, and furthermore that an ACT police officer has no right to order the deletion of said photos or to threaten to confiscate my phone if that threat was given with the sole intent to get me to comply with an illegal instruction from the officer.
The only thing I am not sure about is whether the bus interchange counts as Public or Private property which could have an impact on the legality of the instruction given to me by Constable Cubbins. Given the interchange is owned by the ACT government and accessible to the general public my understanding is this counts as public property but I still need to clarify this properly.
In my opinion it is bad enough that Constable Cubbins refused to take my statement in regards to my alleging an assault had taken place (his response on that was the guards were effecting an arrest, therefore whatever they did was lawful, and that if the girl involved made a complaint about it they would review the bus interchange security footage and therefore my statement was not required), however I am admittedly pretty livid over being forced to delete the photos from my phone, as I believe that is a breach of my civil rights.
I intend to call Legal Aid in the morning and consult with them in regards to what occurred and how (and who) best to make a formal complaint to so that the matter can be investigated, and I welcome any and all opinions on this as to the legalities involved here. Meanwhile I have downloaded some file recovery software and will be attempting to restore the deleted files from my phones SD card – the photos themselves don’t show very much (and my cameras 2MP camera is low quality obviously) but the principle of the matter is at stake here and I would like to recover the photos in case I can use them as evidence in the complaint I can make.
UPDATE 16:42 10/04/13: ACT Policing had this response:
· ACT Policing can confirm officers attended an incident involving two females at Woden bus interchange yesterday.
· Should the writer of this material wish to submit a complaint, this can be done online via the AFP website (www.afp.gov.au)