Police Claim Riot Suspect Had Gun, Grenade, Petrol, Mace, Capsicum Spray, Knife And Mask
In December 2005 Andrew Sanders was arrested by police in the hysteria that followed the Cronulla Riots. Andrew and his friends were stopped in his car at Brighton-le-Sands and the police searched the car. They found some unusual items which excited their interest. They found a breathing mask, a can of petrol and a flyer for a peace rally. Andrew was arrested and held at a police station for the night. He was then released without charge.
When Andrew arrived home the next day he found his home filled with police and media surrounding his home. Following the search of his home Andrew was arrested again and charged with the following offences.
- Possessing an item to disguise and commit a serious offence (maximum penalty – years)
- Possess prohibited firearm
- Possess prohibited weapon x 5 (2 cans of mace or OC spray and 3 smoke canisters)
Some months later he was also charged with:
- Possess silencer
At the time there was huge media interest and Andrew was portrayed as some kind of terrorist. His picture was on the front page of the Daily Telegraph and his case was widely reported in all media.
The police refused to grant Andrew bail. He was a 22 year old university student studying law at University of Western “Phil Gibson methodically cast a cloud over nearly every aspect of the case” Sydney Morning Herald 21.12.05Sydney. Phillip Gibson appeared for Andrew at Penrith Local Court and after a two hour hearing Andrew was granted strict conditional bail.
The most serious charge was “Possessing the means of disguising face with intent to commit a serious offence” which has a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. Within weeks the police dropped this charge. This was, in Mr Gibson’s opinion, clearly a case where the police used a serious charge to try and get Andrew bail refused. The charge they used was one which fell into the category of offences for which the government had made new harsher bail laws just the week before.
Mr Gibson advised Andrew that he should defend all the other charges. The hearing of these matters was strung out over the next 14 months in the local court. After that hearing Andrew was acquitted of the charges relating to the mace/OC spray and the charge relating to his possession of a silencer. Unfortunately he was found guilty of the charge of possessing a prohibited firearm and 3 charges relating to his possession of smoke canisters. Mr Gibson advised that he should appeal against these convictions.
The appeal was finally heard on 8th April 2008. The District Court Judge acquitted Andrew of all the remaining charges. So 2 ½ years after first being arrested Andrew has finally beaten all the charges.
Phillip Gibson conducted the hearing in the Local Court and appeal in the District Court.
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