A cover up by any name?

Whether its cloaking, suppressing, veiling, masking, concealing and disguising the truth, or just putting up a plain-old verbal bureaucratic smokescreen, it’s still a cover up to purposely withhold known information, and this what NSW Police have now been accused of in the tasering of 95-year-old great-grandmother, Clare Nowland.  A tragedy that should not have occurred but in its aftermath a ‘draconian-punitive-police-state’ has attempted to cover up the truth by deleting crucial details from a public statement about the incident in a Cooma nursing home.

28 June 2023


ON 31 May this year the Grapevine reported that after the tasering of Clare Nowland Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the whole thing had been “traumatic for everyone in the police force” – that statement should have been enough to question any empathy or sympathy from the police and to immediately sack Webb from the top cop job.


Protesters called on NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb to stand down as they marched on the force’s headquarters over the death of Clare Nowland.


Even though public disgust and media pressure were hanging Karen Webb out to dry, the Grapevine revealed that on Monday 22 May she still defended the original police statement where the matter was referred to as an "interaction" and left out crucial information and also the fact Ms Nowland had been tasered.


As previously reported by the Grapevine, the general public was not concerned about the trauma of 'trigger-happy' police – they were concerned that police were attempting to get away with the tasering of an elderly woman, which ultimately contributed to her death a week later.


It has now become evident that there appears to be an attempt by police to sweep the circumstances of Mrs Nowland’s tasering under the carpet. Police have been accused of a cover-up after documents obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) Laws revealed that the involvement of paramedics, a knife and a Taser were removed from a first statement about the fatal stunning of the 95-year-old great-grandmother.


A 71-word press release, approved by Police Commissioner Karen Webb, was issued 12 hours after Nowland was injured but provided little detail about her “interaction with police”.


“No further details are available at this time,” it said.


The internal emails obtained under FOI confirm that the original draft media release sent for approval on the day the Tasering occurred contained detailed information about what happened at Yallambee Lodge in the early hours of May 17 – yet crucial information was then deleted. The word “taser”, as well as other key details, which were included in the draft media release, were no longer there – vaporising into the ether.


Webb had oversight over the original press release that was slashed but has rejected allegations of a “cover-up” over the alleged tasering of 95-year-old Clare Nowland.


The 171-word draft prepared by the NSW Police Media Unit outlined how police responded at 4.15am to reports that an aged care home resident had a knife and found a woman “still armed ... in a small room”.


“Police and paramedics attempted to speak to the woman. However, all instructions were ignored,” the document said.


“When she stood up and moved towards officers, a Taser was deployed by a constable.”


The published statement omitted both details, stating her condition was “being monitored” in hospital.


The mention of the officer’s job being placed under review was also removed.


Nowland was unnamed in both versions, as per standard police procedure.

Comparison of the two police media incident reports.

Police did not publicly comment on the incident again until after multiple media reports emerged more than 36 hours after the tasering.


Greens MP Sue Higginson said the fatal tasering of Clare Nowland showed a “real police problem in NSW” and indicated the need for “systematic accountability”.


As it now stands, Ms Nowland’s death is being investigated as a critical incident by police; however, it will be overseen by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC).


NSW Police has come under heavy scrutiny in the wake of the incident, with Commissioner Webb saying that it’s not yet known why the confrontation was handled in that way by officers. Yet the police officer who allegedly Tasered the 95-year-old aged care resident was only stood down from duties, with pay, pending an investigation. Senior Constable Kristian White was given what is tantamount to a paid holiday, until a formal inquiry is complete and he appears before Cooma Court on 5 July.


And where do our politicians fit into the jigsaw puzzle? With political awkwardness, it would seem!


Former Police Minister Paul Tool said police had covered up the taser use and urged his successor to take action.


“The opposition should take it to (police watchdog) LECC,” Police Minister Yasmin Catley told Question Time.


That statement prompted opposition leader Mark Speakman to suggest Catley should resign as a minister, accusing the police of a “cover-up” and saying she was “not up to the job”.


The revelations forced Premier Chris Minns to defend his embattled police minister, Yasmin Catley, after she told parliament she was unaware of the altered statement.


Mark Speakman said the premier “needs to give consideration to removing the police minister”.


“She’s clearly not up to the job. There’s a lack of transparency in her approach.”


Premier Chris Minns said Catley had his confidence and refuted claims of a cover-up.


If there wasn’t an attempt to cover up the tasering of Clare Nowland, why was the original press release amended and why is Webb now offering pathetic excuses to justify police actions? Why wasn’t the truth told immediately the incident occurred?  And why hasn’t the Premier sacked Webb?


The watchdog that has oversight of NSW police (LECC) has some illusory powers, which it admits to, and the laws says it has the right to monitor the Cop's interviews live. But the lawyers usually put the brakes on this type of monitoring, preventing any in-depth probing during the interview, leaving the recorded footage to be reviewed after the event – a system of protecting Cops from scrutiny and once again destroying any public confidence in the police. So will the truth about the tasering of Clare Nowland ever be revealed?


The ‘draconian-punitive-police-state’  continues to flourish and expand because the politicians keep handing them the tools to do so. A handful of which Paul Tool handed to the police late last year, which have no benefit to the general public and was tantamount to hoodwinking NSW citizens that the then government was doing its bit to stamp out crime and should be re-elected. This was reported by the Grapevine on 31 May 2023 in the Death by Taser story.


Yet government still continues to pander to law enforcement, while stripping away the rights of law abiding citizens, more often by stealth or knee-jerk reactions to the lobbying from victims, who claim  perpetrators are getting off lightly - a scenario that has unfolded over recent knife crimes.


The NSW State Government is set to double the penalties for carrying a knife in public and if it becomes law will increase penalties from a $2200 fine to $4400 and gaol time from two years to four years.


Attorney General Michael Daley said at a media interview late last week “I’ve given notice on behalf of the government a Bill will be introduced… that will have the effect of doubling knife crime penalties.”


“We want to send a message, a really strong message, to young men… leave the knives at home,” Daley said.


“If you walk out the front door with a knife in your pocket or your jacket and don’t have a reasonable excuse for it you’ll be able to be sentenced to four years imprisonment or a penalty of $4400,” he said.


“We’re doubling the penalty for the mere carrying of knives in NSW because we’ve been told by the police that there are too many young men carrying knives and because of the gang-related knife crimes in Western Sydney and other tragic circumstances I don’t want to talk about because they are before the courts.


“This must stop!”


Police Superintendent Newman said “there hasn’t been a rise in knife crime but a de-escalation in knife crime incidents but what we are seeing is that people are still carrying knives in public places”.


Daley said, “What does worry me and the government is repeat offender rates for the carrying of knives is stubbornly high and that’s what we want to stop."


But Michael Daley wasn’t being completely forthright about the proposed legislation.


Who was Michael Daley referring to when he said young men – those males between the ages of 14 to 16 years, which Superintendent Newman confirmed as the problem demographics.


When asked by the media present, at the conference that Daley gave, would the proposed legislation deter the carrying of knives, he said that the new legislation would apply to adult males only – not juveniles.


“It will not affect young offenders,” Daley said, “he has been targeted at citizens of NSW, predominantly men who carry knives.”


So, where is the deterrent for juveniles to not carry a knife?


While juvenile male youth continue to stab innocent bystanders and stab each other, Daley’s knee-jerk legislation will have no real impact at all in solving the problem. No one will disagree that there is a problem - victims are complaining that the juvenile justice system is too lenient and offenders usually only receive community orders, because magistrates prefer not to send them to gaol. And many offenders either do not show up to carry out their community order or fail to complete them. So, what's the answer? A tightening up of the juvenile justice laws so that they act as a deterrent to carry a knife - not introduce laws that do not affect the knife-carrying youth.


And to add to the mayhem, police now want electronic knife-wand detectors, which has civil liberty groups up in arms.


If you look differently, dress differently and don’t fit the image profile that 'Mr Plod' [well-known as the ‘Toytown Copper’ from Enid Blighton’s Noddy and Big Ears stories] expects, even law abiding citizens could suffer the humiliation and degradation of being publicly scanned by an electronic scanning wand, if you haven’t already been stiffed over by a police dog, as police maraud the streets near you.

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