An Aboriginal man charged with resisting arrest had his charges thrown out by a court.
Luke Marsh was tasered and pepper-sprayed by ACT Police when he was arrested for breaching the peace.
The arrest of the 39-year-old man has now been referred to the ACT Policing Professional Standards Unit.
Aboriginal man charged with resist arrest
Luke Marsh stayed in a hotel room in Canberra last year when police entered the room and tased him several times.
Acting on an allegation that he was breaching the peace, police then pepper-sprayed him when Marsh grabbed one of the tasers.
Police then charged Marsh with resisting arrest, which was heard in the ACT Magistrates Court.
ACT pursued resist arrest charges
Body-worn video was tendered in court earlier this week as prosecutors pursued the charge of resisting arrest.
Prosecutors told the court that police went to the area responding to a paramedics’ call. They said an intoxicated male had hampered their work.
When the officers arrived, they said they saw Mr Marsh and followed him to his hotel room. There, he shut the door and refused to let them in.
Police eventually gained entry to the room with a master key. They then tased Mr Marsh on his buttocks and upper legs, as he resisted officers’ attempts to handcuff him.
When he was pepper-sprayed, Mr Marsh can be heard complaining of the irritation over and over.
“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” he said.
Court not satisfied Marsh was source of the complaint
The Court found that police did not successfully establish that Marsh was in fact the source of the breach of the peace complaint. As such, entry to his room was unlawful and as was the subsequent arrest.
ACT Policing said the circumstances of the arrest had gone to Professional Standards for consideration.
Targeted by ACT Police racism?
Last year, a magistrate slammed ACT Police for their unlawful arrest of Marsh in May 2020.
Police arrested him for being drunk and disorderly and pepper-sprayed him as he sat, handcuffed, in the back of a police van.
He pleaded not guilty to several charges. The court dismissed nearly all of them after a magistrate found police had “cut corners” in a “serious misuse” of their powers.
The chief executive of Aboriginal Legal Service for the ACT and New South Wales, Karly Warner, said the latest arrest of Mr Marsh “yet again exposed ACT Policing’s culture of discrimination and violence against Aboriginal people”.
“Little more than a year ago, Mr Marsh’s arrest for alleged drunk and disorderly behaviour was deemed unlawful by a magistrate. Now he has been dragged to court again on ‘breach of the peace’ charges, which have been thrown out with heavy criticism again levelled at the arresting officers,” she said.
“Last time, Mr Marsh was pepper-sprayed and held face down on the floor; this time he was tasered and pepper-sprayed in his own hotel room, after telling officers that he just wanted to go to sleep.
“No wonder Mr Marsh – like so many Aboriginal people – doesn’t feel safe around police officers. What will be the result the next time he is targeted?”
Cultural competence training a must
Ms Warner said “the latest red flag from ACT Policing” was proof that officers needed better cultural competence training. She added that there should be a royal commission into the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the ACT’s legal system.
“Accountability is needed urgently – not in a few months or years, but now,” she said.
“The safety of Aboriginal people in the ACT depends upon it.”
Unlawful arrest, assault, battery and malicious prosecution
Depending on the details of the case, Mr Marsh could seek damages from ACT Police for unlawful arrest, assault, battery and potentially even malicious prosecution.
If you believe you experienced unlawful police action contact us today for a free initial consultation.