Obstruct charge dropped and spent conviction imposed in assault public officer case

We recently concluded a matter which arose out of the now abolished coronavirus mask rules on public transport. Our client, who had no criminal record, had been out in Fremantle with their partner in the evening, and was returning home by train when confronted by a heavy-set transit officer. At the time, it was mandatory to wear a mask covering not just your mouth but your nose as well. Unfortunately, our client had a habit of biting their nails and this led to their mask dropping below their nose.

There were repeated hostile and aggressive interactions between the transit officer and our client. Ultimately, our client was ordered off the train because their face mask kept dropping below their nose, at one point dropping on to their chin. The client, out of a belief that the transit officer had been unfairly rude and aggressive, refused to leave.

This led to an excessive and violent arrest where our client was manhandled by four large officers. At one point their head was stuck under the train’s bucket seat as the four officers arrested the client. During the arrest, one of the officers suffered a small mark to their arm as a result of our client attempting to break free of their hold. This resulted in a charge of assault public officer, which was originally alleged to be a full-one bite by our client. A further charge of obstruct public officer was preferred due to allegations our client had resisted the arrest of the other officers.

There were no witnesses to the bite other than the officer who said he had been bitten. Further, we had evidence of numerous bruises and injuries suffered by our client during the arrest, which were far more serious than the small mark to the officer’s arm.

We engaged in extensive negotiations with the prosecution. Ultimately we were able to secure agreement to drop the obstruct charge, and to amend the facts of the assault public officer charge so that there was no allegation our client bit the officer.

At sentencing, we presented a persuasive plea in mitigation which resulted in a fine being imposed. Despite opposition from the prosecution, we were able to secure a spent conviction order, on the basis that the unusual facts of this case made it unlikely the client would ever commit the offence again. This fantastic outcome had the effect that our client would not be held back in their employment for the next ten years, and was able to put this unfortunate incident behind them.

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