Wrongful detention wins man big payout
August 1, 2011 Sydney Morning Herald
THE NSW Government has been ordered to pay $300,000 in damages to a Sydney man after police wrongfully arrested him and continued with a malicious prosecution that included keeping him in jail for nearly two months without trial.
In 2006, heavily armed police forcefully arrested Haysam Zreika at his car glazing business in Artarmon, pushing him to the ground, pointing a gun at him and treading on his head.
They charged Mr Zreika, 32, with shooting a man in the scrotum at a unit in Parramatta.
Advertisement: Story continues below
But the detectives from Rosehill police had scant evidence that Mr Zreika had any involvement in the crime and effectively ignored strong evidence that he was not guilty, a judge has found.
They relied almost entirely on a statement from a man working at a nearby service station who witnessed Mr Zreika come into his store and say aloud, that he had just killed, or felt like killing, ”some c—-”, and that he had ”had enough”.
The attendant reported this to police, along with a description of Mr Zreika.
The description did not match a description of the shooter given to police by witnesses at the crime scene itself.
The shooter was described as being short, stocky, and wearing blue jeans and an orange hoodie. Mr Zreika is tall, skinny, and had been wearing khaki pants and a red hoodie.
The detective in charge of the investigation, Detective Constable Jacqueline Ryder, elected not to interview several key witnesses who were closely connected to the victim of the crime until after the arrest, NSW District Court Judge Stephen Walmsley said in his judgment in the civil case last month.
”That there were … obvious differences between the description of the shooter … and that of the plaintiff, should, I consider, have been obvious to the average astute police investigator,” Judge Walmsley said.
The police opposed Mr Zreika’s requests for bail on two occasions, and he was kept in prison for nearly two months until the charges were eventually dropped.
Judge Walmsley found that in opposing bail ”important information suggestive of the plaintiff’s innocence of the charges was not given to the court or to the plaintiff’s solicitor” and that the police’s statement of facts ”contained serious, and highly prejudicial misstatements”.
Police left out the fact that in a police line-up undertaken after his arrest all eye witnesses had excluded Mr Zreika as the assailant.
Yesterday, the Herald asked NSW Police whether it is investigating Constable Ryder and other officers involved in the investigation but is awaiting a response.