Grafton solicitor Greg Coombes took this photo from his office in Prince St, Grafton, while two officers from Strike Force Raptor stared into his office on Tuesday May 28.
Grafton solicitor Greg Coombes took this photo from his office in Prince St, Grafton, while two officers from Strike Force Raptor stared into his office on Tuesday May 28.

Local solicitor alleges anti-bike gang police intimidation

A GRAFTON solicitor has alleged police from an elite anti-motorbike gang unit harassed him over a two-day period because he represented a bike gang member.

The solicitor, Greg Coombes, has lodged a complaint with the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission after two members of Strike Force Raptor made continual contact with him over a two-day period last week.

The State Crime Command's Gangs Squad formed Strike Force Raptor in 2009 to tackle outlaw motorcycle gangs and any associated criminal enterprises.

Mr Coombes was also concerned the officers may have improperly used police resources to discover where Mr Coombes lived after learning he was to defend a motorcycle club member.

On Tuesday last week Mr Coombes was due to defend Grafton Gladiators member Dean Michael King, against a charge of animal cruelty.

In his statement to the LECC Mr Coombes outlined how the police from the strike force staked out his house, followed him while he drove to work booked him for a driving offence and stopped him a second time, placing a defect notice on his car.

When he caught a taxi to work, the police booked the taxi driver and inspected his vehicle outside Mr Coombes' office.

After that a police car drove up and down Prince St outside his office and later parked in the mid-street parking area and two police officers leant against their car, looking into his office.

Mr Coombes said the officers continued to observe him when he went to Grafton Court House for his client's hearing.

He said throughout the morning he had to ask permission to use alternative exits and entrances to the court precinct to avoid coming into contact with Strike Force Raptor officers.

In the court Mr Coombes informed the magistrate of his experiences that morning and asked for a six-week adjournment, which was granted.

The next day Mr Coombes said he was aware Strike Force Raptor officers attended his office the next day when he was told police were inspecting his motorbike parked out the back.

Mr Coombes spoke to two officers. They did not identify any defects or offence, but when they left they placed Department of Environment and Climate Change notice on the bike, which said the bike had been stopped by an authorised officer and found to be excessively noisy.

My Coombes said it was unlikely police heard the bike running as he had ridden it to work that morning and it had been outside his office for four hours before the police inspected it.

He said the actions of police had caused his girlfriend to become distressed and his son decided he would not drive his car around town while the strike force officers were here.

He said the actions of the officers had put him to unwarranted expense and had caused him inconvenience.

A mechanic could not find any defect on Mr Coombes' car and an inspection of his motorbike, which would inolved two hours of travel and cost of about $60 wwas also likely to prove fruitless.

The president of the Coffs Harbour Clarence River Law Society, Michelle Hermann, said the behaviour of the police officers was concerning.

"We have been discussing options available to him in relation to the conduct alleged to have happened involving him," Ms Hermann said.

"Any allegations of police misconduct are serious not only to members of the legal profession, but to the general public.

"One of the options available is to make a complaint to the LECC. That's something we're considering."

Ms Hermann said the LECC has powers when it is investigating complaints. If its investigations revealed a criminal offence then it might charge an officer with an offence.

She said the police have delivered at least one infringement notice to Mr Coombes.

"There is definitely a trail of notices provided which he could rely on as evidence," she said.

Ms Hermann said it was the first time in her experience she had heard of a complaint involving alleged harassment of a solicitor by police.

She said it was also disturbing that another member of the public (the taxi driver) became caught up in the events.

A NSW Police spokesperson said at this time, NSW Police have not received a formal report on this matter.

The LECC said it does not comment on matters under investigation.

A spokesperson said the LECC investigated serious misconduct and serious maladministration within the NSW Police Force (NSWPF) and NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC), including allegations of harassment.

The LECC may choose to launch its own investigation or oversee the NSWPF investigation of such allegations.



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