Australian Police Officials Smacked Around By Judge For Support Of Illegal Surveillance Of A 'Closed' Facebook Account
from the too-much-power-for-tiny-men-with-easily-bruised-egos dept
A New South Wales cop is finally facing punishment for illegally accessing a Facebook account to perform illegal surveillance, but it took a trip to court to make it happen.
A private Facebook account belonging to Rhys Liam Halvey (under the name "Rhys Brown") was surveilled by NSW Police Senior Constable Daniel Moss after it came to his attention that it contained "derogatory" posts. Moss used someone else's login information to access the closed account (likely one of Brown's "friends") and see what was being posted. This began in late 2013 and continued until March of 2014 when a "string" of "derogatory" posts appeared.
The content of the supposedly derogatory posts is laughable and far from what anyone but the most small-minded police force would view as "criminal."
They featured a NSW Police infringement notice together with photographs of several serving officers, taken in a Sydney street setting.Nevertheless, the posts did result in charges against Halvey, who has never admitted ownership of the surveilled "Rhys Brown" account.
One image carried a large sum of cash and words to the effect of: "Here's my $25,000 for your $101 fine." Another image depicted Miley Cyrus "twerking" in front of an officer.
Rhys Liam Halvey was arrested and charged with three counts of using a carriage service to offend police and a further three counts of publishing an indecent article.Despite having no legal authority to perform this surveillance, the NSW police force supported Moss's actions. Statements were entered by one of the "highest ranking police officers in the state," and when cautioned by a judge for their illegal activity, police supervisors doubled down on protecting Moss from the consequences of his actions.
Not only did they offer two sworn affidavits in support of his actions, they also claimed that any further public discussion of the methods used by Moss to perform his illegal surveillance would be "injurious" to the "public interest."
The judge was not impressed.
In ordering costs against police, Magistrate Brown described the conduct as "reprehensible" and the charges as "trivial."The state's rights advocacy agency also questioned the tactics used and the apparent willingness of senior law enforcement officials to support abusive behavior by constables under their supervision.
"There is no difference to the police trespassing on a Facebook page for four months and my steaming open my neighbour's mail in the hope of one day finding something, anything, to report to police."
NSW Council of Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said public confidence in the police was being "undermined" by an inability to acknowledge the occasions when "it does the wrong thing."Still, the NSW Police managed to have the last word… by preventing anything further from being said. When the judge refused to indulge their request to keep discussions of Moss's surveillance methods from entering the public record, the law enforcement agency withdrew the case and handed over $14,429 in costs to Halvey... and then walked away from the mess promising to investigate actions it had known about since November of 2013.
"How deep in police culture is this willingness to break the law?" he asked. "Even after they have been caught out, it would appear no adverse consequences are going to be suffered by those responsible because the illegal actions are supported by police at the most senior level."