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VIC police fookup

Discussion in 'Politics, Laws, Government & Insurance' started by pringa8, Mar 28, 2008.

  1. John De Jong paid out for drug-drive fiascoBy Norrie Ross
    March 28, 2008 12:59am

    VICTORIA Police will apologise and pay sizeable damages to a motorist its officers wrongly identified as the first in the world to return a positive roadside drug test.

    Ballarat courier John De Jong was the victim of a roadside media stunt that went wrong and stigmatised him as someone who was drugged at the wheel of his van.

    Just weeks before Mr De Jong's defamation action against the police was due to start in the Supreme Court, the case was settled confidentially.

    A legal source said the payout could be up to $150,000.

    As well as paying damages, Victoria Police will issue a statement of regret to Mr De Jong, admitting mistakes and apologising for the hurt and embarrassment caused to him and his family.

    A relieved Mr De Jong, 43, told the Herald Sun he had been through hell. He praised family and friends for standing by him during his three-year fight.

    "My family and I are very glad this sorry saga is finally over," he said.

    "We never wanted to be in the public spotlight, and we're glad that this episode will soon just be history.

    "A technical error caused embarrassment and distress not just for me, but for my wife and children. I look forward to receiving the statement of regret from Victoria Police."

    A Melbourne barrister who appears in defamation cases said he could not comment on Mr De Jong's settlement, but said the payout would be large.

    "In similar cases, I would expect a figure on settlement of between $50,000 and $150,000," the barrister said.

    "And of course, Victoria Police will pay the legal costs, and they will be substantial."

    Mr De Jong was just the fourth driver tested when police set up their new drug bus for roadside saliva testing in Whitehall St, Yarraville, on December 13, 2004.

    Police command arranged for a big media contingent to witness the first use of the drug bus.

    The media was told Mr De Jong had tested positive to the presence of cannabis and amphetamines.

    The information was broadcast by four TV stations that evening.

    When he returned to his Ballarat home, Mr De Jong found wife Kay and teenage daughters Danielle and Belinda in tears after seeing him on the evening news.

    The story was broadcast around the world and was heralded as a success for roadside drug testing.

    An independent laboratory later tested the sample and cleared Mr De Jong - a result confirmed by the police lab.

    Katalin Blond, of Slater & Gordon, said there were lessons to be learned.

    "This is an example of where an innocent member of the public was paraded before assembled media and exposed to international media glare," Mr Blond said.

    "It turned out to be a technical error. This can't be undone.

    "My client is relieved, however, that this matter has settled without the added stress of a trial."

    The statement of regret says the case has been settled on confidential terms, and Victoria Police "express their regret that Mr De Jong was the unfortunate victim of an initial technical error on the first day of roadside drug testing . . . with the unintended result that some of the invited media published reports which identified Mr De Jong as having tested positive to illicit drugs. Victoria Police regrets any hurt or upset caused by this incident to Mr De Jong and his family."
  2. So now there traffic infringement quota will be upped to recoup the payout costs!
  3. 150 grand! He could buy a lot of weed with that sort of money :LOL:.
  4. Allegedly.
  5. If it was me in his situation, it would be a hell of a lot more than $150K.

    I haven't heard the details, but no doubt he would have been suspended from his job, and been unable to get alternative employment, until he was officially cleared.

    The "pain and suffering" of he and his family through world wide reports! I'm sure the footage is archived in many places, and will be used in future.

    Shame on the Police for inviting the media and not using actors. Even if someone was eventually prooven guilty, since when does punishment include pre-emptive shaming on TV?

    Let's hope they have learned their lesson.
  6. Good.

    So state gov advertising and the villification of speeders and impaired drivers has penetrated the community mindset enough that an accusation or charge of the same is tantamount to defamation if it can not be proven later?

    :arrow: Incentive to appeal frivolous charges just went up a great, big, fat notch?

    Bloody beautiful.

    Oh well, you made your bed VicRoads; now lie in it and pay the man his $150k.
  7. If it was merely a accusation or charge, I highly doubt the "defamation" issue would have gotten anywhere. However Victoria Police chose to have a contingent of media present at the launch of their (at the time) unreliable technology, and someone who was wrongly accused was thrown into an international media spotlight as "the world's first convicted drug-driver."

    That's where the defamation happened. I somehow doubt that if it had all happened away from the spotlight, there would have been no case. Don't thank VicRoads, thank whoever's smart idea it was to put a gaggle of media around the place.
  8. Yes, but the media WERE there - and while the police could have handled the situation much more discretely [even if the media were there]; because the cameras were there, they had a nice, big victory announcement which screwed this guys reputation and caused him commerical injury.

    The REASON this blow to his reputation caused him commerical injury is that enough of the community have swallowed all the advertising that people who do 5km/hr over the speed limit, or drive after 2 beers are vile murderers and should be treated as such.

    You can't sue for defamation just by being on TV.
  9. I think this also raises the issue of the media's increasingly irreponsible reporting damaging peoples lives before court proceedings or legal processes.
  10. So really they're the ones to thank for the whole defamation suit thing....if they hadn't been so hungry for their controversial headlines, ratings (and therefore money) it might not have gone so bad.

    I think I semi-contradicted my last post.

    The media are ridiculous these days. Proper reporting has gone out the window for sensationalist stories to pull in the advertising dollar, while they can hide behind their "freedom of the press" rhetoric if anyone wants to stop them saying things. But that's an argument for a different thread.

    Ktulu - it wasn't just being on TV that was the reason he sued for defamation, it was the fallout beyond it that was caused by said TV appearance. The community does need to grow up though.
  11. If the Police hadn't told the media they had a postive drug test, and hadn't effectively paraded the guy in front of them, which they did.

    If they had insisted that the guy's face and identifying information, such as his number plate, were blurred out. They do this often, and the media comply.

    Then there would have been no issue, and no lawsuit.

    We all know how the media operate. The Police were entirely at fault. They should have controlled the situation. Then an apology would have sufficed.
  12. The worst part Rod is that the drug test is just like the RBT tests, nothing more than a screening test. A positive response to a RBT or drug test is just an indication that there maybe something to check.

    The police in this state are farked.
  13. Quite correct Cliff. Thanks for adding in that detail.

    Innocent until proven guilty? The man was found guilty before even charged, on the world wide stage!
  14. ok so lately weve had issues about the accuracy of speed cameras being scrutinised now the bloody drug tests can get a positive reading from someone who aint on drugs...
    do any of the devices that the cops use to screw people actually bloody work without geting it completely wrong?
    people simply should not have to go through so much sh!t to clear theyre name because so called 'hi-tech' instruments dont function properly.
    and dont even get me started about the media :evil:
  15. They have also done stuff all testing into the levels of Amphetines or THC that can actually inhibit you ability to drive a vehicle safely. So just the presence alone is enough to convict you? I think you need a level tested as well. Is is 10 ppm? Is it 250 ppm? Is it 1 ppb?

    But I am glad Vicpol have to cough up as this was a massive blunder on their behalf.
  16. (New member skimming through older posts here - apologies for dragging it back up, but I felt this needed to be said...)

    What I find interesting about the OP is that the police dragged the case on for 3 years, leaving Mr de Jong in limbo (and as stated, convicted in the media's eyes) - and then, a few short weeks before it went to court, they suddenly decided to settle? Doesn't it make sense to them to admit they're wrong as soon as they find out?

    And as for the 'confidential terms' - why am I not surprised? Probably something along the lines of: "OK, we'll give you this bag of money and we'll say we were wrong this ONE time. In return, you accept our apology, don't criticise our methods - and stay away from the media..."

    Perhaps the damages payout should be funded by the salary of the police commanders that dragged the media into this :twisted:
  17. You'll never see the gov investigate anything like that, better off just to keep spanking people and deny the problem exists. Some fighter pilots have been using the stuff for decades (speed that is) to enhance their performance and concentration, a few drivers could do with that! :wink:
  18. Yes it makes perfect sense. Unfortunately this the government and police we're talking about here. Plus, by settling, there's no judgement made so therefore no legal precedent set that could be used by people in the future. That's why they always settle quickly when people are about win speeding camera cases.
  19. :WStupid:
    Thats pretty much the way it goes.
    In some cases there are legitimate delays, but in the main not.
  20. I'm usually on amphetamines when I ride, for medical reasons; I'm prescribed them.

    I'm going to find out where they park this van, get my ass "busted", and wait for the media to turn up. Then, once I've been persecuted just a little, I'll politely ask them to check my medical records and tell them where to mail the cheque :D