Charges have been quietly dropped over a riot in which an out-of-control mob attacked and injured police. The policeman who laid the charges said last night he was disgusted at what had happened and he believed there was no justification for abandoning the case. Sen-Sgt Mario Benedetti, the officer in charge of Moonee Ponds police station, said he did not find out until this week about last month's decision.
He said he suspected the matter may have been dumped because those charged after the incident at Flemington one year ago were of north African descent. "That could be a factor. I wonder if that applies to youth in Sunbury or Craigieburn or Broadmeadows," he said.
Sen-Sgt Benedetti said four teenagers arrested were initially hit with charges including assaulting police, assault in company, resisting arrest and hindering police. When those charges were dropped, less serious counts, including offensive behaviour, remained; but they were also withdrawn last month.
Senior police last night did not indicate that the prosecutions were dropped because of a lack of evidence. Sen-Sgt Benedetti said the matter could not have been dropped because it would not stand up in court, as the case was "cut and dried". "It was a very strong case. The evidence is there. It wasn't circumstantial. It was corroborated," he said. Sen-Sgt Benedetti, who is on sick leave, said he had never known a case to be dropped in such circumstances. "I was never consulted, nor were any of the co-informants. I'm flabbergasted. We've been left high and dry," he said.
Violence broke out after police attempted to arrest an 18-year-old for throwing a rock. One member was assaulted and taken to hospital with suspected broken ribs, while others were abused. Supporters of the youths later claimed police had been harassing local youths.
Supt Jack Blayney said last night: "The withdrawal of these charges followed consultation with the members and youths concerned and was deemed to be the best outcome for both parties. "There are a number of pro-active projects in place at the moment which are aimed at improving relations between some youths in the Flemington area and the police, to increase social responsibility and awareness."
But Sen-Sgt Benedetti said last night he had not been approached nor, to the best of his knowledge, had the brief co-ordinator or the co-informants. At the time, police said they were surrounded after 21 officers converged on a commission housing estate on Racecourse Rd
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