The Penalties for Impersonating a Police Officer in NSW

 

A respected public servant who’s role as a manager in Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller’s office has been charged for impersonating a police officer.

It is reported that on Tuesday night, the 40-year-old manager attended a nightclub in Sydney’s Darlinghurst, the ‘Arq’, when he allegedly passed himself off as an undercover police officer to the staff at the club. This is despite the fact that he isn’t a police officer, and is employed as a manager within the Police Commissioner’s Office.

He allegedly told the bouncers at the club numerous times that he was a cop.

He matter is next listed at the Downing Centre Local Court on 21 January next year, and he has since been suspended from work.

Similarly, on 14 August 2016, a 52-year-old man was driving a vehicle when it got involved in a trivial traffic incident with another vehicle which was driven by an off-duty cop in Ettalong Beach.

It is reported that the man allegedly produced what appeared to be a police ID badge after he approached the off-duty officer at the scene. The man left the scene after the off-duty cop opposed the authenticity of his assertions.

It wasn’t until further investigations were made by police when the man was arrested from his Ashfield home. He was later charged at Burwood police station for impersonating a police officer and granted bail.

Instances of people asserting authority by impersonating police undermines the administration of justice, and it can easily be done- there have been many instances of people using fake police flash lights on their vehicles to pull people over.

Salim Mehajer has been accused of impersonating a police detective via fake email.

It is reported that the lawyer for the Crown Jennifer Single alleged in court that Mehajer falsely purported to be a police officer in an email, ‘using an old email signature from 2016’. Further police investigations are underway into this.

Police alleged the discovery of a picture on Mehajer’s mobile phone appearing to be an email of what looked like it came from Police Detective Sergeant Matthew Taylor. Despite these claims, there has not been any further revelations from the police investigations into this.

What are the Penalties for Impersonating a Police Officer?

Anyone who impersonates a police officer will face a criminal conviction, penalty of up to 2-years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $11,000 under section 546D of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). This is a ‘summary offence’ which means that it will ultimately always be dealt with in the Local Court.

Anyone who does this in ‘circumstances of aggravation’ will face heavier penalties of up to 7-years imprisonment.

‘Circumstances of aggravation’ include, impersonating a police officer AND trying to exercise a police power or function. This can include, stopping someone’s vehicle to check their driver licence, or arresting someone, or searching someone’s home or vehicle.

The Impersonating police offence was previously  in section 204 of the Police Act 1990 imposing a penalty of up to 6 months imprisonment and/or $11,000 fine. The offence was changed to section 546D of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) as of 1 July 2007 by the Police Amendment (Miscellaneous) Act 2006.

The changes reflect the fact that Parliament considers this offence to be more serious warranting a higher extent of criminal penalties than earlier.

In a case involving the aggravated form of this offence, the Court in Opacic v R [2013] NSWCCA 294 said that the aggravated form of this offence was “significantly serious” where a young woman was the target of the deception whose vulnerability was exploited for sexual gratification.

The Case of Opacic v R [2013] NSWCCA 294

Robert Orlando Opacic pleaded guilty to an indecent assault charge and aggravated impersonation of a police officer.

The Facts

The victim on 21 December 2010 was working as a prostitute in Darlinghurst. A vehicle drove past her a few times before eventually it stopped when the driver Mr. Opacic proposed a price for sexual intercourse.

During the discussion Mr. Opacic said to the victim, “honey, I’m a police officer, you’re in quite a but of trouble and I suggest you sit in the car for a chat”. The frightened victim sat in the car under the mistaken belief that he was a police officer.

He threatened to issue her a $500 on-the-spot fine and take her to court where she will be handed a further $1,000 fine.

He also threatened having her visa cancelled and deported back-the victim at this point was shaking and scared.

She provided him with her identification at his request.

With her in the car, he commenced driving in Surry Hills, during which time, the following conversation took place:

Him: “is there anything you would do so you won’t be in trouble?

Her: “I don’t understand.”

Him: “Have a think. What would you do to make this go away?”

Her: “I would do anything, but I don’t know what you are getting at.”

Him: “What about if you give me favours, just me, whenever I want?”

Her: “If I agree to that it will just get me into more trouble.”

Him: “No, it will just be between us.”

He obtained her contact number before him saying, “Would I be able to use this number whenever I wanted so you would be at my beck and call when I want favours?… Think about it and you can make all this go away”

She believed that to be a reference to sexual services without fee.

When they arrived in Hillsdale, he stopped and parked the car in the Matraville Tennis, Squash and Indoor Cricket Centre.

During the time here, he commenced committing acts amounting to indecent assault, including touching her breasts and placing her hand on his erect penis.

This went on for some time before she realised the car door was unlocked and escaped. She eventually got a lift from a stranger back into the CBD.

Following this, police got involved and telephone conversation between the two was conducted under police supervision where he was reportedly still purporting to be a police officer.

For the offence of impersonating police, he was sentenced to 2-years and 9-months imprisonment with an 18-month non-parole period.

For the offence of indecent assault, he was sentenced to 2-years and 6-months with a 15-month non-parole period.

The court looked at the statistics for this offence and said that there were only ten cases of this kind, which were all finalised in the Local Court. The court did not consider this to be of any assistance.

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.

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