Sunday, November 11, 2012

Out of jail...

“Lift your balls,” the warder instructs me. I am standing stark naked in the reception area at the Surry Hills police complex.  I do as instructed. The warder, bored and cantankerous, leans forward and after a passing glance at the region in question makes a mark on the clipboard he is holding.  

I am under arrest for trespassing in the Screen Australia foyer during business hours, at 3 pm on a Friday afternoon. The bail conditions from my 15th Oct arrest (at 4pm, also during business hours) stipulate that I may not vesture within a one kilometer radius of Kings Cross police station. I was handed a map with a circle drawn on it to leave me under no doubt at all as to where I was not allowed to go. Unfortunately this forbidden zone included St.Vincent’s hospital and a couple of days later I was almost arrested again on Crown street after visiting someone in the hospital in breach of my bail conditions. I suspect it was only the paperwork involved in re-arresting me, up to three hours, that saved my bacon.  

I had hoped that my presence in the Screen Australia foyer on Friday afternoon, sitting quietly, posing a threat to no-one, might induce at least one member of the Screen Australia board (meeting that day) to come down into the foyer and talk to me. I had written three letters asking the board to either ratify its ban 9th Nov and provide me with evidence  that I had intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia or lift the ban and acknowledge that I have never intimidated or placed members of Screen Australia at risk and that the board was mistaken in believing that I had.

The Screen Australia board wouldn’t, I thought, call the police a second time! Surely!  Not for the first time and probably not for the last I was to learn how naive I was when it comes to predicting Screen Australia modus operandi. Within half an hour of posting on my blog the police arrived. They found me sitting alone on a sofa, sending a text message to a friend: “They are pretending that I don’t exist,” I was writing, as staff moved back and forth around me...pretending that I was not there! Nearby, Reception staff answered phones and chatted amongst themselves about what they would be doing on the weekend. 

The cops (nice guys) were bemused and more than a little mystified as to why they had been called but there was no one there to explain it to them. No-one, not even Graham Smith (Screen Australia’s Security Manager) was on hand to alert them to the nature of the crime I was committing. I had to do so myself, “I think I’m trespassing,” I said.  The two cops exchanged glances. One, with grey hair, asked me what kind of place this was. I explained that it was a tax-payer funded federal film funding organization. “And you’re trespassing?” he asked, looking at his watch. I nodded. There was a little head scratching and a brief conference between the cops before the younger of the two asked me for my drivers license. I produced it. The younger cop (also a sweet guy) made a phone call and discovered that I was in breach of my bail conditions. Full of apologies the gray haired cop told me that I was  under arrest and would I like to accompany them to Kings Cross police station. 

I’ve no idea who made the decision to call the police. No member of Screen Australia staff, no member of the board, showed their face as this 15 minute arrest process took place. Given my letter to Glen Boreham the previous day, both he and the board would have known I was in the building and certainly did nothing to prevent a call from being made that they knew would lead to my arrest. Such is Screen Australia’s idea of dispute resolution under the stewardship of Ruth Harley! 

Bear in mind, dear Reader, that at any point ion the past six months Screen Australia could have demolished me, made me appear both a fool and a liar by producing evidence that I had intimidated and/or placed Screen Australia staff at risk with my correspondence. Does SA have anything at all on record similar to what has been released in relation to the St John’s College controversy?  This is not a rhetorical question but it IS one that Screen Australia refuses to answer.

“Whoever wrote to SMH, you will get what you deserve bitch,”  and “I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you,” are two examples from the St Johns College controversy. This constitutes genuinely intimidating correspondence and whoever wrote it SHOULD have an AVO taken out against them, SHOULD be charged and, if they had sent such correspondence to any member of Screen Australia staff SHOULD  be banned. It is the implication that I have done something of this nature that concerns me much more than being banned.

Does Screen Australia have on file one sentence, one phrase or even one word in correspondence from me that is intimidating or which places anyone at risk? The answer, I can assure you, is no. This is a fact. A demonstrable fact, but Ruth Harley, with the board’s blessing, does not need facts to back up her assertions. Rather than prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am guilty as charged (and here was yet another golden opportunity) she has me arrested. Again! What can one do but shake one’s head in bewilderment and laugh? The implications of having such a CEO as the head of our peak film funding body are not a laughing matter, however.

As we drove back to Kings Cross police station the cops were first of all bemused and, after I explained to them what was going on, deeply unimpressed at having their time wasted in this way. They would now be tied up for between 2 and 3 hours ‘processing’ me  -  unless, of course, they could release me on a technicality. This they desperately wanted and tried to do. Half a dozen cops back at King’s Cross police station pored over the map with the circular exclusion zone and tried to convince themselves that Screen Australia was just outside the zone so I had not, technically, beached my bail conditions and they could let me go. The Duty Sergeant, who likewise wanted to release me, (another nice and reasonable man) decided that I had been within the exclusion zone and, full of apologies, told me that police protocols necessitated that I be arrested, held over night and that I appear in court the following morning by video link.

And so began my most recent induction into the criminal justice system: finger prints, mug shots,  ‘What’s your address?’ ‘Next of kin?’ ‘Are you an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander?’ date of birth, ‘are you suicidal’, ‘do you suffer from diabetes’ etc. And, of course, my belt was removed lest I neck myself! It is a laborious process arresting someone and I can understand why the cops were pissed off. The paperwork takes them off the street and away from doing the job they signed up for. Disgruntled though they were they treated me very well and we had plenty of laughs together about the madness of modern bureaucracies - Screen Australia and the Police Force sharing many things in common when it comes to meaningless bureaucratic process. I asked what proportion of their time was spent doing actual police work and what proportion doing administrative work? About 20% doing actual policing, they replied. 

A few hours later, the paperwork completed, the finger-printing done, the mug shots taken, I was handcuffed (Sorry, James, police protocols!”), put into the back of a paddy wagon and driven to the Surry Hills police complex that includes within it a whole section run by the Department of Corrective Services. Yet more forms had to be filled in as I was transferred from police to Corrective Services custody and the same questions asked about my date of birth, whether I was Aboriginal or Torres Straits Islander etc. The warder conducting this interview must have got out of bed the wrong side that morning or perhaps his bad mood and mean-spiritedness were character traits that had led him to want to be a warder in the first place. As I was to discover, being a warder gives anyone with a natural tendency towards sadism ample opportunity to practice their art.

One whole sentence uttered by this cantankerous man, contracted into a brief incomprehensible mumble, meant nothing to me.

“Cidl’ he said.
“Sorry,” I replied, with not a clue as to what has just said.
“Cidl,” he mumbled again, annoyed, but with no upward inflection to even give me a clue that he was asking me a question as opposed to making a statement.
I leant closer and asked him to repeat what he had said. He looked at me aggressively 
“Are you deaf mate?” he said.
I shook my head. “No, I’m not deaf,” I replied, thinking that this must have been his question, though ‘Are you deaf mate” bore no phonetic resemblance to ‘Cidl’. He glared at me, thinking I was being a smart arse. 
This time he spelt out each word angrily as though he was speaking to a moron, but with his sentence broken down into actual words this time.
“Are you suicidal,” 
“No, I am not suicidal,” I assure him, observing that it would be pretty hard to neck myself having been relieved of my belt. He stared at me for a long moment not sure how to respond to this (“Is he taking the piss!”), before returning to his questions, “Do you have any tattoos etc.” 

I had been through this process of having my belt removed during my first arrest of 15th Oct. When it was returned to me three hours later I said, in front of three police officers, “So I can go and neck myself now, right?” They all stared at me, exchanged glances. ‘What to do!?’ They knew I was joking but police protocols being what they are a statement such as this should result in their calling in a shrink! “Mate, don’t joke about necking yourself or we cant let you go,”  said the Duty Sergeant. Right, I replied. Sorry. Making jokes about belts a bit like joking about bombs at an airport!

I had been promised at Kings Cross Police station that I would be able to make a phone call at Surry Hills and that I would be provided with a meal. I was provided with neither but led by Corrective Services officers to a cell with two other prisoners in it. It was obviously the maid’s day off because the floor was strewn with rubbish. The open plan cell has nothing in it apart from some rubber matts to lie on and aluminium toilet  with no seat. And no toilet paper. And of course no way that the toilet could be used with even a modicum of privacy. The walls were covered with graffiti, the most common of which was Fuck the Police - abbreviated by some artists to FTP. There were a few ‘Not Guiltys’, a couple of homages to girlfriends and some dried blood on the walls. And I had two cell mates - Wayne, a 32 year old Aboriginal man from Redfern who called me “Old Fella” and a high strung 42 year old Maltese-born man by the name of Mike - both of them ‘hanging out’ for the drugs to which they were addicted and ripe targets for those members of Corrective Services with sadistic tendencies. But that is another story.

to be continued...


Since Posting this blog entry this morning I have learned that Graham Smith is NOT Screen Australia;s Security Manager but that he works for the company that manages the building. I have no desire for Graham to get caught up in my dispute with Screen Australia but unfortunately his name appears in court documents as the person who called the police on 15th Oct so he is caught up whether he likes it or not. It would have been much more appropriate if either Ruth Harley or Fiona Cameron had called the police if they felt that it was necessary to do so at 3.30 in the afternoon. They should not have given the job to the Security Manager for the building - a man who clearly had no reason or desire to have me evicted at that time of day. During Screen Australia business hours! I have no idea who called the police on Friday 9th Nov. but do hope, in the future, if he is asked to call the police again, that Graham suggests that someone from Screen Australia call the police and not ask him to do so. Let them appear in court and not place Graham in the embarrassing position of having to do so - which he will, unfortunately, on 20th Dec. when my case is heard in court. My crime: Trespassing in the Screen Australia foyer at 4 pm. ""Apprehended at 4.20."


  1. Ricketson, you should have seen it coming. As I warned last week, the Screen Australia Board did not have your banning on its agenda. It will never have it on their agenda. You have become an embarassment to them and they will continue to ignore you ebcause they know that you have no support from the Ombudsman and none from Mr Crean. You are alone, mate, and might as well get used to the idea. Give up now for the sake of your sanity.

  2. James, quite by chance (don’t ya just love google?) I came across this last night - a small clip that goes some way to explaining why Screen Australia hates you so much:

    “Should film bodies be held accountable when the films they back fail at the box office?”

    1. Sorry, Freddy, but I don't see the connection!

    2. Martha Coleman's lame answer to James' question revealed that no one at Screen Australia is ever held accountable for anything that happens within the organization - one of the points that James keeps banging on about. Ad nauseum, yes, but why not!