A Sydney magistrate has hit NSW Police with a $100,000 legal bill over the “terrifying” arrest of NRL player Curtis Scott in January.
Scott, who plays for Canberra Raiders, was charged with multiple offences including assaulting police and resisting arrest after he was found sleeping at Moore Park early on January 27.
But all charges were withdrawn or dismissed earlier in September after the court was shown footage from the officers’ body-worn cameras.
Scott, who had been drinking on Australia Day prior to his arrest, appeared disoriented and was handcuffed, pepper sprayed and shot with a taser during the arrest.
His lawyer, Sam Macedone, sought $100,792.30 in costs, arguing the investigation was unreasonable and the prosecution never should have dragged on for eight months.
On Friday, Magistrate Jennifer Giles said the actions of Senior Constable Christopher Bucknell, who used the taser, were “terrifying”.
He said the officer became “offended and frustrated” after arguing with a drunk man who was blinded by pepper spray and lying on the ground.
Magistrate Giles also criticised police statements that claimed Scott was “thrashing” and “lunged”, which contradicted the footage.
“That’s not an investigation,” she said.
“That’s a shoring up, seemingly with a consciousness of not having done things properly, one might think.”
Police prosecutor Rebecca Beecroft was “at pains to plead that case of the hapless police”, the magistrate said.
The prosecutor had argued police did the best they could in the circumstances and were worried Scott might have wandered onto the road and been hit by a car.
Magistrate Giles dismissed that as absurd.
“I genuinely think Mr Scott might have been safer if he had wandered onto the roadway and been hit by a car,” she said.
“Try to watch the bodycam footage without flinching, and not through your fingers, and try to remember that you’re not watching gratuitous violence off the dark web.”
The magistrate questioned why the prosecution was pressed for eight months, including a two-day hearing the the Local Court, where there are more than 82,000 cases waiting to be heard.
Mr Macedone had repeatedly attempted to warn police of flaws in their case, all the while making his costs clear, she said.
“It seems to me extraordinary that with no real prospect of success, in the face of all the matters and problems raised by Mr Macedone in his correspondence with the police hierarchy, the prosecution still elected to run this matter,” Magistrate Giles said.
Outside court, Mr Macedone welcomed the decision and said he hoped police received better training, including about the appropriate use of pepper spray.
The NRL has recently recommended a $15,000 fine for Scott, but it might be suspended if he attends counselling and education programs.