Australia receives a diplomatic rebuke over Roberto Curti’s death

 “The Embassy of the Federative Republic of Brazil wishes to convey the frustration of the family of Roberto Laudisio Curti [and] endorsed by the Brazilian government, regarding the results of the judgment concerning police officers involved in the operation which resulted in the death of the Brazilian national.”

Australians have no wish to see individual police officers punished for carrying out their duties as they saw fit. However their actions were so wildly inappropriate and grossly excessive in the circumstances, and the outcome so tragic, that it is hard to escape the conclusion that justice has not been carried out.

The Brazilian government is fully justified in endorsing the concern and frustration of the family of Roberto Curti at the outcome.

This article summarises the police response and management of the 19 year-old student, who was mentally disturbed as a result of a drug-induced Acute Psychosis.

Of the four police charged with assault, only one was found guilty as a result of administering a third bottle of capsicum spray. No conviction however was laid against him. The others who had carried out the tasering were found not guilty.

Curti died in March 2012 after being tasered 14 times, seven times within 51 seconds.

The 21-year-old had taken LSD and stolen some biscuits from a convenience store in Sydney’s CBD.

A witness called triple-0 and the operator mistakenly recorded the report as an armed robbery.

Up to a dozen officers chased the bare-chested, unarmed Brazilian student along Pitt Street, before he was eventually pinned down and handcuffed while being repeatedly tasered. He died at the scene.

Four of the policemen involved were charged, two with common assault and two with the more serious offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Magistrate Clare Farnan found only one of the officers guilty, Senior Constable Damien Ralph. His assault charge related to the use of capsicum spray, not tasers.

She said at the time that “while I accept that in the heat of the moment Mr Ralph may have thought it appropriate to continue to use the third bottle of OC [capsicum] spray … it is obvious that it was not”.

But she accepted Mr Ralph had suffered psychologically and agreed not to record a criminal conviction against him.

The other three officers, all of whom deployed tasers on Mr Curti, were found not guilty.

An investigation that finds no fault, and therefore attributes no blame, accepts the status quo. Might this just ensure that the mistakes of the past will be repeated under similar circumstances.

I believe that the NSW Police have taken note of this incident, and the shocking over-reaction of the police officers concerned.

I would certainly hope that all police will be made aware of the dangers of forceful restraint of the mentally disturbed, and the many medical risks of using Taser guns. I would hope that never again will any individual be tasered 7 times in 51 seconds for a total of 14 times. Undoubtedly this contributed significantly to his death.

I would hope that there could be a liaison between police and trained psychiatric personnel for more appropriate management of unarmed mentally disturbed patients. They need medical attention, not condoned violence.





About Kenneth Robson

I studied at Adelaide Boys' High School, and the University of Adelaide, Medical School. graduating in 1961. My field of specialisation was Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Prior to establishing my practice in Adelaide, I spent 5 years working in India, and Papua-New Guinea, in the field of reconstructive surgery for leprosy. In retirement I joined the Australian Technical Analyst Association and passed the two examinations for a Diploma inTechnical Analysis, and the designation Certified Financial Technician (CFTe) by the International Federation of Technical Analysts.
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