A lot of talk on Twitter this morning about the teenage reveler at the Mardi Gras who appears in video footage being slammed on his back while handcuffed and then appears stood-on by the officer who slammed him. In the footage a second officer instructs the person videoing proceedings to stop without authority.
Police have said this morning that he has been charged with assault police, resisting arrest, and offensive language. Some folks in response have uttered a low whistle, remarking that “he has been charged with a serious offence”. Between that police comment, and the reaction to it from everyone else, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s now two sides to the story and we can all stop being so judgy about NSW police who have a “hard job to do”.
The person has been charged with what some lawyers and others describe as “the trinity”. The trinity refers to those specific three offences, and they are called the trinity when they police charge someone with them because they have nothing else to charge with.
Why those charges? Quite simple; they are the three things police can charge people that creates the impression that the accused has done something wrong (otherwise why would they be charged right?) but also they are the three charges there is no public backlash for if they fail in court.
Why no backlash? They are simply the three charges that nobody cares if they fail.
- If a court dismisses a charge of assault police, it’s still believable that the accused was doing something wrong, but it’s just when they were apprehended by police they didn’t also behave in a manner which constitutes assaulting police
- Similarly if a court dismisses a charge of resisting arrest, the public are invited to believe that while the suspect was guilty of an offence he was being arrested for, his behaviour during that arrest was just not itself enough to also constitute an offence
- The offence of offensive language is slightly different. The first two charges are about believing that someone has done something wrong but just didn’t also didn’t make it worse when the police tried to apprehend them. The offensive language charge is more an overarching issue about being able to give a shit either way. It’s something the police can charge for (and now say the accused is facing three charges relating to events during the mardi gras parade) and if it’s dismissed (it almost always is) there will never be a public outcry that police appear to have fabricated a charge of swearing. Because nobody could care whether the accused swore or not.
One offence nobody cares about that shouldn’t even be an offence, and two which don’t actually address what an accused is supposed to have done, but rather what they did when police sought to apprehend them for it.
The trinity is not “serious offences”, it’s effectively a character assassination designed to give somebody a charge record in the absence of having genuine recourse against behaviour which is genuinely societally unacceptable. It’s an abuse of process so that homophobic (or more commonly racist) police can assert authority without accountability.