According to an internal investigation, the NSW police failed to act on a complaint against a known sexual offender, which resulted in a horrific outcome.
A leading senior constable based at St George Local Area Command has been charged with four counts of neglecting his duties after failing to act on a complaint against a sexual offender who allegedly went on to sexually assault a 7-year old girl at Kogarah Dance Studio last year.
The man, 55-year old Anthony Sampieri, was out on parole when he allegedly attacked the child, filming his act of raping and choking her.
It is alleged the girl spent at least 15 minutes alone with Sampieri in a toilet, before he was confronted by two men. One of the men is reported to have been stabbed several times in the ensuing struggle.
Police failed to act
An internal police investigation found that in the weeks prior to the alleged incident, police had interviewed a woman who had made a complaint that Mr Sampieri had been making harassing phone calls to her. Officers took no action, despite being aware that Sampieri was on parole for sexual assault.
At the time, Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Police Commissioner Mick Fuller issued a public apology, with the commissioner admitting police had made “some errors”.
“Slipped through the net”
The investigation found that if police had notified the parole board about the complaint, Mr Sampieri’s release could have been investigated and his parole revoked. But police inaction meant that the sex offender’s conduct slipped through the net, enabling him to re-offend.
Suspended with pay
Police suspended the officer in question with pay following the investigation.
They have now charged him with neglecting his duties as a police officer, and he is required to appear in Downing Centre Local Court in June.
Section 201 of the Police Act 1990 (NSW) prescribes a maximum penalty of 20 penalty points, which is currently equivalent to $2,200, for neglecting or refusing to obey any lawful order or to carry out any lawful duty as a police officer.
The offence is not punishable by a prison sentence.
Publicity in the wake of Mr Sampieri’s arrest prompted more complainants to come forward, alleging they too have been victims of the man’s explicit phone calls.
Mr Sampieri allegedly made 13 calls in November. Three of those are said to have been on the afternoon of 15 November—just hours before he allegedly attended the dance studio.
He has now been refused bail and remains behind bars.
Sexually explicit phone calls are a hallmark of Sampieri’s past offending. In 2012, he sexually assaulted a woman at knifepoint in his flat in Illawarra, after luring her inside to look at furniture for sale.
Court documents reveal that the attack occurred at a time when he was high on ice, and in the midst of a “sex binge”, making dozens of explicit phone calls to women whose photographs and contact details he had found in the newspaper.
At the time, he pleaded guilty to four charges including aggravated sexual assault, an offence which attracts a penalty of up to 20 years behind bars. He was sentenced to a maximum of seven, and served less than five.
He was released on parole in September 7 last year, just two months before the attack at the dance studio.
In response to community outcry that Sampieri was on parole at the time of the alleged attack, a State Parole Authority NSW spokeswoman said parole was granted because it was Sampieri’s first period of adult incarceration, he had demonstrated satisfactory prison performance and had participated in relevant programs and/or counselling, including a sex offender program.
Mr Sampieri has been charged with 11 offences, including sexual intercourse with a child under 10, making child abuse material, two counts of filming an aggravated act of indecency and two counts of grievous bodily harm in relation to the attack on the seven year old. If convicted, he could spend a lifetime behind bars.
In January, an additional 87 charges of using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend were laid against him.
Using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend in NSW
Section 474.17 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) prescribes a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment for any person who “uses a carriage service…in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.”
A “carriage service” is defined as a service for carrying communications by means of guided and/or unguided electromagnetic energy, which includes telephone calls, text messages and transmissions over the Internet.
To establish the charge, the prosecution will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the officer, rather than another person, who made the alleged telephone calls and that the contents of that call would be regarded by a reasonable person as either menacing, harassing or offensive.
Section 138.2 of the Act defines “menaces” as including:
- a threat (whether express or implied) of conduct that is detrimental or unpleasant to another person; or
- a general threat of detrimental or unpleasant conduct that is implied because of the status, office or position of the maker of the threat.
The section further states that a threat against an individual is not menacing unless it would be likely to cause:
- the individual to act unwillingly, and the maker is aware of the vulnerability of the individual; or
- a person of normal stability and courage to act unwillingly.
Section 473.4 states that the matters relevant when determining whether the use of a carriage services was “offensive” include:
- the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and
- the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the material; and
- the general character of the material (including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character).
The Act does not contain a definition of “harass”, and its meaning is therefore left to the courts to determine.