“Freeze, it’s the Police…Or Is It?”
By Yavin Kumar @ Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers
In many situations including traffic accidents, cases of domestic violence and assault, search and rescue missions of missing persons, and murders, amongst other emergencies that may affect or concern the overall wellbeing of the community, it is quite often the case that the State Police Force are the first point of contact, as well as the first responders to the scene of an emergency. Many Australians hold great trust and respect for police officers and are grateful for the things that they do in order to serve towards protecting and upkeeping the best interests of our society.
However, the trust that people hold for police officers can sometimes be mistreated and abused.
A 23 year old man was heard before the Parramatta Bail Court on the 10th March 2018, where he was facing several counts of sexual assault and theft charges, as well as charges of impersonating a police officer. Police alleged that the accused had contacted two adult services agencies and had informed two women that he was a police officer. He allegedly sexually assaulted a 45 year old woman at or around 2am on Friday morning, after meeting with her in Minto.
Police further alleged that after this incident had taken place, the man then stole personal property from a woman at another location. He had allegedly told the woman that he was a police officer, and thus had the authority to confiscate the woman’s phones, iPad and drivers licence.
The accused was arrested on Friday morning and was charged with aggravated sexual assault involving deprivation of liberty, stealing, two counts of impersonating a police officer and exercising their powers, and indicent assault. Although the accused’s lawyer outlined the accused’s limited criminal history and uncertainty of being convicted for the offences, the accused was denied bail.
In New South Wales, it is an offence to pretend to be a police officer. Pursuant to section 546D of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), any person that portrays themselves or gives the impression to others that they are a police officer, when in fact they are not, will be charged, and could face a maximum term of imprisonment for 2 years and/or a fine of 100 penalty units. As an aggravated offence, a person who impersonates a police officer and purports to exercise the powers or functions of a police officer will be charged and may face a maximum term of imprisonment for 7 years.
Common examples that could fall within the ambit of impersonating a police officer for the purposes of section 546D of the Act may include walking around in a public place whilst wearing a uniform that makes you look like you are a police officer, calling someone and informing them that you are a member of the Police Force, or showing someone a Police Badge which leads to them believing that you are a police officer. In some cases, a person can also be charged under section 546D for displaying flashing red and blue lights in a vehicle that is not an official emergency response unit.
Whilst it may be difficult to defend a charge of impersonating a police officer, you may have a valid defence if you are able to argue that the impersonation was done purely for comedic or satirical purposes, or that you strongly believe that your actions did not constitute towards impersonating a police officer. However, as for all matters, it is ultimately the decision of the Court to accept or reject your defence, based on the evidence put before it.
Emergency Services exist in our society to maintain the peace in our community to promote a safe environment for all. It is never a good idea to impersonate an emergency services officer, as this can attract adverse consequences for yourself, and also draw away from officers attending to real emergency situations in an efficient and timely manner.
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