Aboriginal man sues over alleged police brutality after bike light arrest

An Aboriginal man is suing Victoria Police over claims officers threw him off his bicycle, pinned him to the ground and called him a “black c—” during an arrest for not using a bike light.

Korey Penny, 32, has filed a writ in the Supreme Court seeking damages over allegations of police brutality following his arrest on St Kilda Road last year.

Korey Penny, pictured in September last year, is suing over alleged police brutality after he was arrested while riding to work on St Kilda Road. Credit:Justin McManus

According to his statement of claim, Mr Penny was riding his bike to work at the Metro Tunnel building site at 5.15am on September 3 when a police officer tackled him to the ground outside the Victoria Barracks.

The officer, who is unidentified but had tattoos on his arm, then allegedly put his knees on Mr Penny’s legs before grasping his clothing and shaking him, causing his head to repeatedly hit the ground.

Two police officers then allegedly pushed Mr Penny against a wall near an IGA Xpress outlet, where they searched his pockets and bag.

Mr Penny said police refused to help him up from the ground following the incident and unlawfully detained him until an ambulance arrived.

At the time of the incident, Mr Penny, a Menang man from the Noongar nation in south-west Western Australia and a father of two, said he was “spear tackled” to the ground soon after a police officer told him to get off his bike.

Mr Penny said he complained to the officer that his arm hurt while he was pinned to the ground, and when he was let go, crawled to his bike, circled by an estimated 12 officers.

In his account of the alleged verbal abuse, Mr Penny said: “I said, ‘You always do this to Aboriginal people’. I told them, ‘I’m from WA’ and they said, ‘You’re not in WA now, you black c—.’”

According to court documents, Mr Penny’s right elbow was hurt, leading to numbness in his right hand and fingers, and he suffered a psychiatric injury. Mr Penny claims the conduct of the officers was compounded by their behaviour towards him, which left him humiliated.

Mr Penny’s lawyer, Jeremy King, declined to comment while the matter was before the courts.

Mr Penny with his damaged bike.Credit:Justin McManus

Victoria Police said on Wednesday: “As the matter is now before the court, it would not be appropriate for us to comment.”

A police spokesperson defended the arrest at the time, saying “we are satisfied with the use of force in relation to this incident”.

“The police members involved in this incident were not aware of the man’s ethnicity until it was later confirmed after they had a verbal interaction with him,” the spokesperson said.

Police said in September last year that Mr Penny would be charged on summons for failing to stop on police request and riding a bicycle on the footpath without a light at night. Mr King said on Wednesday that his client had never been charged.

Mr Penny is asking the Supreme Court to award aggravated and exemplary damages and a declaration from the court that police violated his rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

In a series of high-profile incidents in recent years, police have been taken to court to defend actions that left members of the public seriously injured.

Zita Sukys and her then partner, Dale Ewins, were at Inflation nightclub in July 2017 when heavily armed police stormed a Sinners and Saints costume party and shot both of them.

The pair won millions of dollars in compensation when they settled their civil case before evidence could be given in the Supreme Court shedding light on the force’s conduct.

Nik Dimopoulos, an innocent man who was seriously hurt when police mistakenly raided a gay community bookshop in 2019, lodged a lawsuit in 2020 after police left him with fractures to his arm after it was pulled from his shoulder socket during the arrest.

Police stormed an apartment connected with the Hares & Hyenas bookshop on Johnston Street in Fitzroy while pursuing a man suspected of committing a carjacking and home invasion. The surgeon who operated on Mr Dimopoulos has described it as one of the worst shoulder fractures he had ever seen.

In July, three police officers who were found to have assaulted a disability pensioner on his front lawn after they attended his home for a welfare check were fined but not convicted.

With Timna Jacks

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