The police case against Rickey Caton started with a “roaaaar!” when he was forcibly arrested by two officers after jokingly producing a toy dinosaur during a roadside car stop.
But it ended with a whimper on Friday when a magistrate ordered the police force to pay more than $105,000 in legal costs after finding the matter should never have gone to court.
The police are facing even more financial pain over the ill-judged prosecution, with Mr Caton and his mate set to launch a claim for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for assault, wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution.
“The [police] proceedings should not have been brought,” Magistrate Mark Douglass told Kiama Local Court on Friday, as an inspector from the police force’s Professional Standards Command looked on.
“The prosecutor failed to reasonably investigate relevant matters … which might have suggested that the accused was not guilty.”
The magistrate was referring to the evidence of the third officer present on the night of the arrests – Lucie Litchfield – who said that far from assaulting police as her colleagues had claimed, it was Mr Caton and his mates who had been the victims of aggression.
Ms Lichfield said that when police stopped Mr Caton and his mates in Queanbeyan in late December 2013 and asked if they had any weapons, the local father had cheekily pulled out the toy and declared “I’ve got a dinosaur – roaaaar!”.
She said one of the officers, Senior Constable Todd Finnegan, had subsequently forced Mr Caton from the car, pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him. Her other police colleague, Senior Constable Patrick Hicks, had then crash-tackled Mr Caton’s friend, Adam Antram into a retaining wall.
What an appalling over-reaction by Police, and good to see them lose big time in court.