- A pensioner has been savagely beaten by two plain clothed VicPol cops, who rolled up to his property to conduct an inspection of his gun storage.
- Liberal MP, Bev McArthur, has taken up the matter and helped Stuart get free legal advice. She wants answers as to how this could happen to one of her own constituents.
- The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission has been asked to investigate the matter.
79 YEAR OLD Stuart lives alone in Central Victoria. He has served with the Country Fire Authority for nearly 30 years and was a councillor on his local council for 12 years. From everything we’ve seen and know, there is no reason to suggest Stuart is anything but an upstanding citizen.
In March this year, Stuart was getting ready to help a friend with vermin control cull shooting when he heard a voice call out from the other side of his side fence.
Start opened the side gate. Two plain clothed VICPOL officers carrying pistols on their belts and body cameras, pushed the gate open into him.
For reasons unknown they grabbed Stuart’s wrists, threw him to the ground, jumped onto him and handcuffed him after forcibly twisting his arms behind his back.
Stuart has no criminal record. At 5’5”, around 60 kilos and 40 or so years older than the officers – he was also clearly no threat to the officers.
It was only during this – not before they entered – that they said they were from Victoria Police. At no stage did they give their names or say which part of Victoria Police they were from.
The reason they were there?
The officers said they were there to inspect his gun safe.
Stuart was stunned, so they searched his house for the gun safe keys but didn’t find them. After interrogating him, Stuart told them where the keys were. The police opened the safe – and seized his firearms and ammunition and suspended his licence. Whether the ‘search’ for the keys without a warrant was legal is a matter that the NSC is receiving legal advice on, and may come out in legal actions that we anticipate will follow.
Stuart continued in pain for some time. VICPOL officers eventually called an ambulance – before leaving him at home, injured. The ambulance arrived around 40 minutes later and took him to Colac hospital.
You can see what the police did in these photographs. All from a gun storage inspection.
Stuart’s mobility has since been impaired, and he has had to rely on friends to help him attend doctors for medical treatment, cook for him and for daily chores. He is recovering slowly but at Stuart’s age, takes time. All of this could have been avoided with a simple phone call or knock on the front door.
NSC helps Stuart
Stuart contacted the NSC for help, and we immediately swung into action.
The NSC drove out to see Stuart (a 3 hour drive) and immediately put Stuart in touch with his local member, Bev McArthur MP (pictured above in the title image).
Bev is a friend of the NSC and supports shooters. She visited Stuart at his home to see how she could assist and to her absolute credit, immediately organised legal assistance for Stuart “pro bono” (for free) as she was as shocked at what had occurred as we were.
On her advice and with help from the NSC, Stuart has written to the Victorian police watchdog, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission – IBAC – to lodge a formal complaint against the VicPol officers.
Reason for licence suspension
The reason given for Stuart’s licence suspension (and ‘proposal to cancel’) by Victoria Police are that:
No further information has been provided.
If there is anything else to this story we don’t know, then it is yet to come out. Stuart has no criminal record and his guns were safely locked away. The police couldn’t even find the keys without his help. He was simply at his own house when the officers arrived and no other charges or allegations were made.
Instead, it seems obvious to us that the police don’t have anything on him.
It will be interesting to see what the VICPOL body camera footage shows.
Helped by the NSC, Stuart made a submission to the Victorian firearms registry on why his licence should be returned.
Victoria Police responded by saying that if he provides a medical and or psychological report as evidence that he is suitable to hold a firearms licence, they will not cancel his licence.
From this distance, it looks like Victoria Police don’t have a reason to suspend his licence and decided to ‘reverse the onus of proof’ on him to make him prove that he is fit to have the licence.
VicPol’s motto is “Uphold the Right”. Stuart has rights as well. We hope IBAC will uphold them for him.
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