December 9, 2010
A Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry into the repeated Tasering of Aboriginal man Kevin Spratt has been told of a litany of other injuries sustained by him while in custody at the East Perth Watch House.
Mr Spratt made headlines when it was revealed he was Tasered 13 times as nine officers surrounded him at the Watch House on August 31, 2008. It was today revealed Mr Spratt was actually shocked 14 times in this initial incident.
A week later, Mr Spratt was Tasered 11 times when a number of helmet-clad corrective service officers, carrying riot shields, tried to “extract” him from his cell.
In the inquiry which began today, it was revealed Mr Spratt was Tasered up to 41 times over seven days. On September 6 he was hit 19 times by police and corrective services officers as he was being moved from the East Perth Watch House to Casuarina prison.
The inquiry was today told that when Mr Spratt was assessed after the second Taser incident, he was revealed to have rib fractures, a collapsed lung, a dislocated right shoulder and a fractured arm, along with several cuts, abrasions and puncture wounds caused by the stun-gun darts.
Previously unseen footage of corrective services officers Tasering Mr Spratt 11 times while trying to get him out of his cell was shown for the first time during this morning’s hearing.
It showed officers dressed in riot gear standing outside as the designated negotiator enters Mr Spratt’s cell, repeatedly warning that he would be Tasered if he didn’t lie down.
“Turn around and lay down mate, if you don’t lay down I’m going to Taser you,” the negotiator is heard saying upon entering the cell.
“I’m not going to ask you again, if I have to ask you again I’m just going to Taser you.”
Mr Spratt was then dragged out of the cell and Tasered as he screamed “hello devil” and sang prayers.
Counsel assisting the CCC Peter Quinlan told the hearing Mr Spratt was subject to force other than stun guns, saying the cause of his numerous injuries was yet to be determined.
“Mr Spratt was also the subject of restraints by a number of officers, including during a cell extraction by the DCS on September 6, 2008,” Mr Quinlan said.
The lawyers of three police officers applied for their clients names to be suppressed but CCC Commissioner Len Roberts-Smith rejected all three.
Sergeant Aaron Grant Strahan and Senior Constable Troy Gregory Tomlin both discharged their Tasers on Mr Spratt in the East Perth watch house, while Detective Constable Brett Andrew Fowler helped arrest him.
During the Watch House Tasering, Mr Spratt refused to move into another room to be strip-searched. CCTV footage showed Constable Tomlin discharging his stun gun seconds after speaking to him.
“Give us your hand or you’re going to get f…ing Tasered, do you understand? Now,” Constable Tomlin said.
Constable Tomlin and another officer each grabbed one of Mr Spratt’s legs while he was stunned repeatedly.
Outside the hearing Mr Spratt was supported by his visibly upset fiancée, Tayunna Schatkowski.
“I am pleased that the footage of what has been referred to as my ‘cell extraction’ in September 2008 has finally been made public,” Mr Spratt said.
“Much has been made by the police and others of my criminal record and manner which I conduct myself in the presence of police. They are matters which I deeply regret.
I would like to properly acknowledge the support I received from my family, my fiancée Tayunna, my employer and my friends.”
‘Lack of confidence’ in police
Opening the inquiry earlier this morning, commissioner Roberts-Smith said there had been “community disquiet” over the incident, which had generated a “lack of confidence” in the WA police force.
The Tasering of Mr Spratt at East Perth Watch House first came to light with the release of a report by the CCC into Taser use in WA.
CCTV footage showed the unarmed and subdued now 41-year-old being Tasered 13 times as nine officers surrounded him.
No one was charged over either incident despite a police internal inquiry finding two officers had used undue and excessive force.
In his opening address, Mr Roberts-Smith said the inquiry would need to address allegations of misconduct by public officers and the conduct of internal investigations by the WA police and the Department of Corrective Services.
Mr Roberts-Smith said that following the release of footage showing Mr Spratt’s Tasering, Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan gave several media interviews and the WA Police released a timeline of his criminal history.
“The public debate led to the revelation of other incidents in which Taser devices were said to have been used on Mr Spratt by police and Department of Corrective Services personnel,” he said.
“Other serious allegations were made about police treatment of him, that police had been engaged in a ‘cover-up’ and that they presented a false statement of material facts about Mr Spratt to a court.
“Much of the political comment was inflammatory.”