Compensation for young people falsely imprisoned

Compensation for young people falsely imprisoned

We secured a settlement of $1.85m for over 50 young people wrongly arrested by NSW Police for breaching bail conditions that didn’t exist.  

Between 2007 and 2014, at least one hundred young people were arrested based on inaccurate data in the Computerised Operational Policing System (COPS). COPS is meant to store information about ‘victims, offenders and incidents that require police action.’ But when courts altered or removed bail conditions, it was not always recorded in COPS, so records showed bail conditions that no longer applied, or in some cases, had never applied.  

Police relied on the system to arrest young people unlawfully, even when they knew the information in COPS was unreliable and inaccurate. 

Young people, some only 13 years old, were arrested on false grounds. Most were strip searched after being arrested and some were detained overnight, away from their families. Many were not released until appearing at court, where the correct bail conditions would be applied.  

Young people’s lives were significantly disrupted, preventing them from attending school or work. Some were arrested, imprisoned and released by courts multiple times. 

The Justice and Equity Centre (as PIAC) represented individual young people who had been wrongfully imprisoned from 2009, with many cases settling in favour of our clients. When we became aware there were issues with COPS from 2005 we recognised a systemic issue and partnered with Maurice Blackburn to bring a class action lawsuit against the NSW Government in the Supreme Court.  

After a legal battle of more than four years, the NSW Government reached a settlement agreement, paying out more than $1.85m to our clients. This case exposed a serious systemic failing by NSW Police and was described by then-CEO Edward Santow as ‘one of our greatest victories’.  

Einpwy’s wrongful arrest and harassment by police 

Einpwy Amom was the lead plaintiff in our class action against the NSW Government. Einpwy came to Australia in 2003 as a refugee from Sudan. In 2010, he was arrested three times in two weeks by a NSW Police officer based on incorrect COPS information.  

Einpwy was on bail at the time of his arrests and had been under a curfew. But after the curfew was lifted, Einpwy was arrested when he was out with his cousins in Blacktown. 

‘We went to the police station and from there they typed up my name and everything and he checked it and in the computer it says you’ve got curfew,’ Einpwy explained. 

He was held overnight in a juvenile detention centre and his family was not told. When Einpwy appeared in court the next day, the judge found he did not have a curfew and released him.  

Six days later, the same thing happened again: Einpwy was held overnight until the court released him.  

‘The second time when I went to court, the judge […] was like, “Why are you here? We’re sorry what happened, you shouldn’t even be here.” She even said sorry,’ Einpwy says.  

But the police harassment did not end there. Einpy was arrested a third time by the same officer and for the same reason. The repeated arrests and imprisonment caused him significant distress.  

‘I was angry and I knew the same routine what they were [going to] do. And boom, they handcuffed me and [took me] to the police station, they searched me at the cells and then I went to Cobham again.’ 

The experiences left Einpwy, who had fled a warzone, feeling unsafe in his community. 

‘I feel like I’m not in a safe place, because when the police hate the people how can you stay and who will help you?’ 

Media Coverage 

Sydney Morning Herald:  Falsely imprisoned youths sue NSW govt, 8 June 2011 

ABC Background Briefing: Computer glitch blamed for ‘hundreds’ of wrongful arrests, 15 December 2013 

Sydney Morning Herald: Wrongful detentions: NSW Police to pay $1.85 million in compensation after settling class action, 2 August 2015 

Sydney Criminal Lawyers: NSW Police to Pay for Wrongful Detentions, 6 August 2015 

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