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Cop’s statement “tainted”: lawyer

Tuesday, 5th May, 2015

A police officer denied he purposely omitted charitable work performed by the Rebels bikie club in a report so as to put the club in a bad light.

Senior Constable Joel Eckford was last week called as an expert witness in the Local Court hearing of three men accused of participating in criminal group activity.

Gregory Hillier, Michael Mutu and Matthew Ward were also charged with intimidation and trespassing following an incident last year in which police allege the men went to a house in Chapple Street and threatened a man.

All three have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Sen. Con. Eckford, an intelligence officer with the NSW Police Force gangs squad, told the court on Friday he had been involved in several investigations involving the Rebels since joining the squad about five years ago. 

But under cross-examination he confirmed that much of his knowledge of the outlaw bikie gang had been gleaned from other police working in the field, and that he had never himself infiltrated any bikie gangs.

He also said all of the investigations he had been part of involved Rebels’ chapters in Sydney or in and around the NSW central coast, and he had not had any direct involvement with investigations involving the Broken Hill Rebels until now.

Although he had read a number of intelligence reports about the local club, Sen. Con. Eckford said he had not seen, nor was aware of the existence of a list of local members.

Defence lawyer Peter Webb, for Hillier, also accused Sen. Con. Eckford of leaving out any positive aspects of the Rebels, such as the club’s donations to charities and hospitals.

“The truth of the matter is you were asked to give a position on the Rebels that suited the prosecution’s case,” he said.

“You had information available to you  ... that you omitted from this report.”

The Rebels and other so-called outlaw gangs also provided an important social framework for their members who could, for example, rely on the club for support in the event that they were struggling financially, Mr Webb said.

He said the report did not provide a “full picture” of what the Rebels did.

“This is a tainted statement.”

Sen. Con. Eckford denied he was deliberately trying to put the club in a bad light and said criminal activity made up a significant portion of the club’s activities.     

The hearing before magistrate Geoff Dunlevy was adjourned until August 26.

In the meantime, Mutu and Ward will no longer have to report to police after their lawyers successfully applied to have their bail conditions varied.

* A report on page 3 of Friday’s edition stated Michael Mutu had received a text message from Michael Trevena in relation to the September incident. This is incorrect. In fact, the message was from Matthew Ward to Mutu.

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