PUNCHED, KICKED, BASHED: The attacks were brutal, but injured officers say weak sentences hurt almost as much

Published by the Herald Sun on 24 May 2019
Related coverage: Top cops Graham Ashton and Wayne Gatt warn about the lack of respect for Victoria Police

POLICING is in Chris Eyre’s blood, but he never expected to spill so much of it in the line of duty.

“I grew up in a policing family. I have wanted to be a Victoria Police officer ever since I was a kid,” Senior Constable Eyre said yesterday.

“My mother was a police officer, my dad did 40 years in the job and my grandfather was a police officer even longer, nearly 50 years — then there was my uncle Damian.”

His uncle Damian is Damian Eyre, 20, who, alongside fellow constable Steven Tynan, 22, was murdered in Walsh St, South Yarra, in 1988.

Sen-Constable Eyre, 33, was belted in the face with a lump of wood being wielded by a 15-year-old boy after being called out to quell a noisy party at Hoppers Crossing in 2015.

To make matters worse, when the offender came before court, there was no conviction recorded against him and his only sentence was a 12-month youth supervision order.

“That sentence was a real kick in the guts to me. That’s not a deterrent and surely such people need to be deterred,” Sen-Constable Eyre said.

“I had about three months off work and had to have surgery because the bone in my nose was so badly smashed that one side of my nose had collapsed against my face.

“I later had to have followup surgery because the first operation hadn’t worked properly.

“So by the time his supervision order was nearly up, I was still undergoing treatment to try to fix the damage he caused.

“What he did to me affected me and my family for years, yet he didn’t even get a conviction.

“Physically, I have recovered, other than I have permanently lost my sense of smell, but mentally, it’s hard and can be a struggle.”

Sen-Constable Eyre said the attack on him was a sickening example of the lack of respect being shown to police by young people today compared with when he was a teenager.

“With the teenage offender who hit me with the wood, I wasn’t even doing anything to him at all.

“I wasn’t trying to arrest him, yet he came at me from behind and belted me.

“A couple of seconds later, I got struck in the face. I couldn’t see. Everything just went black.

“I could still hear all the guys around us being really aggressive but I couldn’t see. It was really scary.

“I was disorientated, I didn’t know what was going on — but feared the worst.”

 

HIT IN FACE WITH BRICK

FRONTLINE cop Dale Annesley was hit so hard in the face with a brick that his brain bled.

The attacker then pinned down the leading senior constable.

“I remember lying on my back on the ground with him on top of me trying to get my gun,” Sen-Constable Annesley, 47, said yesterday.

“I was desperately trying not to pass out because if I did I knew he would have me.

“I was frantically trying to get on my right-hand side so he couldn’t get my firearm out.

“I squirmed around to lie on top of the gun, which was pretty hard to do as I was almost unconscious. I heard somebody yell out, ‘Do you want a hand?’ and I yelled out, ‘Yes!’

“Two tradies then jumped in and pulled him off me and threw him in the back of the police van. I was very lucky they were there.

“The brick did an enormous amount of damage. I couldn’t close my jaw, I couldn’t eat anything solid for six weeks.

“I also had bleeding on the brain and I still have problems with my neck.”

The cowardly and brutal attack on Sen-Constable Annesley was back in 2016 and he still hasn’t been able to return to operational policing.

“I have been at work on and off since then as a result of being diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder.”

Sen-Constable Annesley said during his 19 years on policing’s frontline, he had seen a dramatic increase in lack of respect for the blue uniform.

“It’s particularly noticeable in young people. They just don’t seem to care about the consequences of their actions.

“That’s a dangerous road to go down. Once a large slice of society loses respect for police that’s a dangerous society to live in — and that’s where we are now.”

To add insult to injury, the charges of conduct endangering life and unlawful assault laid against Sen-Constable Annesley’s attacker were dropped.

“The Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to proceed with the charges because of the offender’s mental health problems,” Sen-Constable Annesley said.

“So he wasn’t punished at all. That really disappointed and frustrated me.”

 

DISTRESSED BY SPITTING ATTACK

GETTING spat on didn’t physically hurt the 40-yearold detective senior constable

— but it did make her physically sick.

A couple of incidents involving the senior detective, who asked not to be identified, in the past two years are alltoo-common examples of the increasing lack of respect being shown to police.

They are also disturbing examples of how the court system often lets assaulted officers down by not delivering sentences that might deter future attacks.

“I was working at the Rainbow Serpent music festival,” the senior constable told the Herald Sun yesterday.

“It was about 2am when we received a call to assist in relation to an aggressive male.

“We arrived and I tried to speak calmly with the male. Due to the volume of noise from the festival, I was closer than I normally like to stand to people.

“The male was highly agitated and immediately starting yelling abuse at me before he kneed me in the leg and spat on my face.

“I was not left with physical injuries from this. However, being spat on by another human being is what disturbed me the most.

“I find this behaviour abhorrent and it shows a blatant disrespect towards police.

“While we were dealing with the male, we were notified that he had been involved in a sexual assault.

“He had exposed his genitals and masturbated within close proximity to a group of females at the festival

— the majority of whom were quite distressed about this behaviour and made formal statements to police.”

The offender was charged with sexual offences, unlawful assault, assaulting an emergency service worker and various drug offences. But he escaped with just a $3500 fine after some of the drug and assault offences were withdrawn and no convictions were recorded for the other offences.

“I feel like this sent a wrong message to the public,” the senior constable said.

In December 2017, prior to an A-League soccer derby at AAMI Park, police officers including the senior constable were walking with Melbourne City’s active supporter group towards the stadium.

“As we approached the ramp, a group of Melbourne Victory supporters came from the top of the concourse, blocking a number of uniformed police, including myself, in between the two supporter groups.

“A number of objects and flares were thrown. A brick missed my head by mere centimetres.

“We reached the top of the concourse and again tried to hold the City supporters back when the Victory supporters tipped over a number of rubbish bins and started throwing glass bottles towards us. To my knowledge, no one was held accountable for this,” she said.

 

KICKED IN FACE BY TEENAGER

THE bruises on this officer’s face were caused by a cowardly attack that sickened all who witnessed it.

Scores of people saw it live at Highpoint Shopping Centre and thousands more later watched it on CCTV footage released by police and featured on the Herald Sun website.

The senior constable was crouched on the ground while attempting to subdue a youth who was resisting arrest following an alleged shoplifting incident.

Another teenage boy then ran up and kicked the officer full on in the face as though his head was a soccer ball.

The camera captured the enormous force of the kick as the stricken officer’s head bounced backwards.

Police union boss Wayne Gatt said he was appalled when he watched the footage of the attack.

“That incident really raises a lot of questions,” he said.

“It says to us, how have we let our young people get to a point where they think that’s OK?

“Where people — who should be under a significant degree of guidance, support and mentorship — are behaving in that way?

“Maybe it’s the absence of that guidance in communities with young people that is part of the problem of lack of respect for police and for authority in general.

“I don’t know that it is the job of police to instil respect in young people.

“Anyone who is a parent has that job, our educators have that job — and some of them are failing.

“They are failing because what we are seeing now is hideous offences against police officers by young people becoming commonplace.

“How as a society have we allowed that to become commonplace?”

 

DELAY IN JUSTICE

THE court system badly let down Senior Constable Maxine Phillips at first.

Ice-addicted burglar Ahmed El Lababidi’s attack on her was so fierce her teeth ended up puncturing her lip.

Yet El Lababidi received just 200 hours’ community work.

“I was called to a burglary in Glenroy after two triple-0 calls,” Sen-Constable Phillips, 29, told the Herald Sun.

“I located a male matching the description. He dropped a number of items and ran at the police vehicle.

“I communicated with him to the point he was compliant.

“After putting one handcuff on, the offender proceeded to resist and wrestled me to the ground.

“He used his free hand to punch me multiple times to the mouth.

“Two members of the public assisted in restraining him and later received commendations. They restrained him until the ambos arrived and sedated him as he was affected by ice.

“I was taken to hospital for scans and X-rays.

“My teeth pierced my lip in the assault and a tooth was fractured. That tooth had to be removed, I needed bone grafts, braces and an implant to rectify the damage.

“My dental treatment is still ongoing.

“I also sustained soft tissue damage and whiplash to my neck as a result of the punches, with ongoing physiotherapy and osteotherapy to this day.”

Among the charges laid against El Lababidi was one of assaulting an emergency worker, which now carries a mandatory six months’ jail.

But that charge was dropped after El Lababidi argued that his case featured exceptional circumstances — his mental illness.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed against the 200-hour community work sentence, saying it was “manifestly inadequate”, and El Lababidi was jailed for eight months.

El Lababidi then appealed against that sentence and was released on bail after serving just 44 days behind bars.

In July last year, he was finally re-sentenced and jailed again for another eight months.

“Absolutely, there has been an increase in attacks on police,” Sen-Constable Phillips said. “There is an increased need for members to be vigilant at all times.”

 

‘VICTIM’ BECOMES ASSAILANT

A POLICE officer doing the right thing and simply attempting to help a member of the public can end up being badly injured.

This year, a female constable and her partner were on patrol when they came across an unknown man in the middle of the street who was calling for help.

On approach, the man ran directly at the police vehicle.

He started banging on the bonnet and attempted to gain entry to the car.

The police members got out of their vehicle and attempted to place the man under arrest. He attempted to steal the police vehicle.

The constable, who asked not to be named, had her arm slammed in the car door while she was trying to get the man out of the police car.

He fled on foot but was detained within a short distance.