Federal police ordered to pay for illegal raid on construction union Canberra office

The CFMEU's Canberra office
Contributed by ugly

The Australian Federal Police has been ordered to pay the bulk of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s (CFMEU) costs, for a court challenge over what has been judged as an illegal raid on the union’s Canberra headquarters, because there was no valid warrant.

During the raid, Police seized thousands of documents, both electronic and hard copy. Union officials were frisked and searched. Mobile phones were confiscated. Even posters were taken.  The police took 13 hours to leave.

The raid was connected to the accusations of blackmail and corruption and  uncorroborated testimony given by opponents of the union at the Royal Commission in August 2015. The Royal Commission into building industry unions is regarded by many as a witch hunt to de-unionise the construction industry.

However, the accusers have not been able to obtain hard evidence and a series of police raids were organised to try and obtain some. The police raids also served as a convenient political photo shoot for the government, aimed at fostering a public perception of wrongdoing, whether it is well founded or not.

The union challenged the legality of the Canberra raid through the courts. Most of the claims were upheld by Justice Richard Refshauge, who found that  part of the search of the Dickson offices had been unlawful, ruling that police withheld information from the magistrate in order to get the warrant.

“I have found the seizure under the second warrant to be invalid because of the failure to disclose fully the circumstances that were required to be disclosed for the issuing officer, the learned magistrate, to make a proper decision about whether to issue a warrant that is able to be executed after 9
pm,” the decision said.

“In the light of the strict duty of full disclosure, it seems to me that this failure meant that the warrant was issued on a false basis and is therefore invalid.”

The judge ordered information seized – which the union says was electronic data – under the second warrant should be destroyed or returned to the union with seven days.

He also ordered the AFP pay the union’s legal costs for the challenge, but that order was later disputed by the AFP.

The matter returned to the Supreme Court on Thursday, when Justice Refshauge said, the AFP should pay 85 per cent of the union’s costs for proceedings.

 

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