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Computers locking up kids in NSW

COPS can’t get anything right

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A class action to be launched today in the NSW Supreme Court will accuse NSW Police of arresting and locking up teenagers due to a computer glitch.

The action, foreshadowed late in 2010, will be led by prominent compensation lawyers Maurice Blackburn in conjunction with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

The problem seems to be that the NSW Police’s dated operational system, dubbed COPS, has trouble communicating with the state’s troubled JusticeLink computer system, which tracks court cases. As a result, police are accused of using out-of-date bail information to arrest people they wrongly believe are breaching their bail conditions.

JusticeLink was the subject of an election promise by the new Liberal-led NSW state government, after suffering years of delays and cost overruns. According to the NSW auditor-general, A$2.7 million was paid to people wrongfully arrested or imprisoned due to the glitches.

In a classic example of “picnic” (Problem In Chair, Not In Computer), police have been accused of relying solely on their COPS system to identify targets for pickup, without cross-checking names against JusticeLink, which they can also access.

The poster-child for the lawsuit is 19-year-old Musa Konneh, who was arrested at home and detained overnight in a police lock-up, the day after all charges against him had been dismissed by a magistrate.

Vavaa Muwuli, a solicitor with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, says “the police computer system has been unreliable for some time”. She told ABC News that wrongful arrest and/or detention is happening around twice each week. ®

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