Officers on witness stand charged with illegal search

Lawyers representing one of the men charged in the find have filed a lawsuit in court and asked for the case to be dropped, after officers from Townsville’s Major Organized Crime Squad illegally searched the vehicle. Andrew William Taylor, 31, appeared before the Townsville Supreme Court on Friday. After days of covert surveillance, MOCS agents found an estimated $750,000 worth of meth hidden in the dashboard of a hired Mitsubishi in May last year. Taylor was a passenger in the vehicle driven by his co-defendant Tyson Leverentz, 34. Officers intercepted the vehicle on the Burdekin Bridge around 4 a.m. The court was told the search uncovered $2,200 cash and 382g of pure meth worth up to $750,000 at the time due to low supply and high prices during the Covid-19 lockdown. Both men were known to police and had previously been convicted of drug offences. They each face a single charge of aggravated possession of dangerous drugs on schedule. MOCS civilian clothing Senior Constable Wade Beeton was the lead investigating officer and made the decision to stop the car. Constable Beeton said police information gathered over a month indicated Taylor was involved in the distribution of meth. Police began monitoring Taylor’s activities in April 2020 after receiving information indicating that he was involved in the large-scale delivery of meth in Townsville. The court was told that police had information that Taylor supplied meth from a mechanic’s workshop in Currajong and his home and had used a stolen LandCruiser as security for $80,000 worth of meth. Constable Beeton told the court he had not received a warrant to search the vehicle because he believed he did not need one. The police have the power under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act to stop a vehicle, detain its occupants and search it without a warrant if they reasonably suspect that a criminal offense has been committed. During his evidence, Constable Beeton said he was “suspicious” about Taylor’s travels and that phone records showed he had traveled to Brisbane and then immediately started back north. Constable Beeton raised no objection when Taylor’s attorney Justin Greggery QC described his order to another officer to search the vehicle as a “carte blanche” direction. “We were there to look for illegal dangerous drugs, (the other officer) he knew the (police) force we were using… I gave him no limit as to what he could and couldn’t look for in that vehicle,” said officer Beeton. “Most people in these circumstances do everything they can to hide dangerous drugs, so yes, we did a thorough search.” Constable Beeton told the bailiffs who searched the vehicle, used screwdrivers, removed the interior trim, took out the spare tire and took apart the glove compartment. A search warrant gives police specific permission to open locked compartments and remove panels or cladding from a vehicle. Under heavy cross-examination, Constable Beeton admitted that the police force he used to stop and search the vehicle suspected it was carrying drugs, did not specifically offer this equivalent power. “If you were wrong, you understood that a search warrant was not necessary. the search would be illegal,’ Mr Greggery asked. “In the event that it was illegal, you realized that you had organized multiple other individuals acting with the apparent authority of the state to stop a vehicle, cuff its occupants and disassemble parts of the car.” Those actions, if unlawful, include committing any number of offences, deprivation of liberty could be one… going armed to incite fear in public could be one… unlawful access to a motor vehicle could be another.” Constable Beeton agreed that he continued the search on the basis that he did not believe he needed one and without checking with a senior officer. “Do you understand that ignorance of the law is no excuse for committing criminal offences,” Mr Greggery asked. Two other police officers testified during the hearing on Friday. Presiding Judge Justice David North adjourned the case to November 26 to hear legal arguments from each side. NAT – Stay tuned – Social [email protected]

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