Pier police assault trial ends in plea deal

Two women pleaded guilty to obstructing police outside the Pier Hotel, but only after a more serious charge was changed.

Eighteen year-old Abbi Lee Major and 38 year-old Kristy Marie Bennett were on trial for assaulting a public officer before Magistrate Flynn in Esperance Courthouse on November 8.

Major had also pleaded not guilty to refusing to give police personal details and guilty to trespassing and refusing to leave a licensed premises.

Bennett had pleaded guilty to refusing to leave a licensed premises.

Defense lawyer Carmel McKenzie represented Major and defense lawyer Melissa Sandars represented Bennett.

Snr Constable Simon Chan made the case for the prosecution.

In his opening, Mr Chan said the incident occurred five minutes past midnight on February 18, 2018.

The prosecution called complainant First Class Constable Cohen and Constable Hawke as witnesses.

Mr Cohen said he and Mr Hawke were patrolling licensed venues and were stopped by Pier staff who alleged two females were refusing to leave and assaulted a staff member and a patron.

Major approached police and spoke to Mr Hawke to ask him to help them gain entry to the Pier.

Mr Hawke allegedly told them they had to leave the area, but they refused.

I felt I faced serious risk of bodily injury

First Class Constable Cohen

Mr Cohen said Major refused to give him her details twice so he gripped her arm and he told her she was under arrest.

Major allegedly tried to pull away so Mr Hawke grabbed her other hand.

Mr Cohen said Bennett told police “don’t pick on a little girl, pick on me.”

Bennett then allegedly tried to push past police to get to Major and dropped a cigarette.

Mr Cohen said he told her not to pick it up and she pushed him in the chest as she ignored him and bent down.

“I felt I faced serious risk of bodily injury,” he said.

Mr Cohen said he deployed capsicum spray at Bennett but it was ineffective.

He alleged Major kicked him twice in the upper-left thigh as he tried to arrest her.

He said he told Mr Hawke they had to get Major to the ground.

Mr Cohen said Bennett approached and told police “leave her alone” and “fight me, not her”. 

He said he sprayed Bennett a second time and she walked away.

After placing Major in the back of the pod police called for urgent back up. 

Mr Cohen said Bennett approached him again and was sprayed a third time.

He said he had to “wrestle” with her, while her arms were flailing and they both fell over.

Mr Cohen said Bennett slapped him in the face twice. 

Another police van arrived and Bennett was arrested and both were taken to the station.

Mr Cohen said Bennett calmed down while Major remained erratic and was taken to hospital and left in the care of Bennett.

Mr Chan tabled CCTV footage from outside the Pier. 

A young, 18 year-old small person was thrown to the ground by two big strong policemen head first.

Defense lawyer Carmel McKenzie

In cross-examining Mr Cohen, Ms Sandars said Bennett was concerned Major was on the ground and had been arrested for no reason.

The defense claimed Mr Cohen OC sprayed Bennett for no reason and that he lied about being pushed.

Ms McKenzie submitted photos to Mr Cohen of Major’s alleged injuries.

He said he did not notice any of them on the night.

Ms McKenzie said Major never kicked Mr Cohen and police had used excessive force.

“A young, 18 year-old small person was thrown to the ground by two big strong policemen head first,” Ms McKenzie said.

Mr Cohen replied “I didn't want to be kicked again.”

During an adjournment there was negotiation between the prosecution and defense and there was an agreement to change to the charges.

The charge against Major of failing to provide details was dismissed.

The assault charges were reduced to obstructing police for both accused.

Snr Constable Chan read out revised facts that Major and Bennett had been swearing and verbally abusive and had refused to provide details.

Mr Chan said Major tried to push past police and Bennett approached police three times while they were arresting Major.

Ms Sandars said Bennett had sought counselling and lost her job because of the pending assault charge.

Ms McKenzie said Major had left Esperance, obtained a full-time job and was receiving treatment for mental health issues.

Magistrate Flynn fined Major $200 for refusing to leave, $300 for obstructing police and $50 for a separate trespassing incident.

Bennett was fined $200 for refusing to leave and $750 for obstructing police.

Both received spent convictions.