SIXTEEN adults and juveniles caught up in the so-called Yamba riot in February 2010 have filed damages claims against the NSW Government.
A solicitor acting for the complainants (in conjunction with Tony Love, solicitor of Bourke Love Lawyers at Lismore and Ballina), Mark Spagnolo, said police had breached his clients' civil rights by their actions on the night of the riot and during subsequent investigations.
The riot occurred in the early hours of February 14 when police attended a noisy party at Yamba.
In the ensuing chaos a police car and another car were torched and police arrested a large number of people at the party.
In the adult criminal cases that followed, all those charged were found not guilty and the police withdrew all charges against the juveniles.
Mr Spagnolo said damages claims were important to protect the civil rights of people when the authorities overstep the mark.
Mr Spagnolo said while some people might not have liked the result of the criminal proceedings, they should put themselves in the position of the parents or relatives of people who were charged and detained.
"They should ask themselves how they would like it if their sons or daughters were assaulted and subjected to frisking and strip searches whilst in police custody," he said.
Mr Spagnolo said his clients will plead that police sought onerous bail and curfew conditions on them before and during their court cases as well other pleadings on various matters.
"Police have an important role in protecting the community which must be respected, but when police overstep boundaries and breach the law themselves this must be addressed in order to preserve the rights of innocent people who have suffered serious loss as a result of police conduct."
Mr Spagnolo said the timetable of the cases was likely to continue for 12 to 18 months.
Coffs Clarence patrol commander Superintendent Mark Holahan said he was aware a number of people were taking action against the police force.
He said, as the matters were the subject of legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for him to comment on them.
He said court was the best place for these matters to be dealt with.
The cases were filed in the court at Lismore, where they are likely to be heard in coming months.
Sixteen people have filed charges against the NSW Government claiming compensation for actions of police involving:
- Wrongful arrest
- False imprisonment
- Damages for mental trauma