Police have hired one of the country’s top lawyers to investigate a former officer’s stunning confession that he lied in court – and wrongfully sent at least 150 people to prison.
Patrick O’Brien wrote to Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias admitting to perjury, saying he was racked with guilt after carrying a “dreadful secret” for more than 30 years.
Now nearly 60, O’Brien was an undercover agent in covert drugs operations in the 1970s, immersed in a dark, criminal underworld, and the star Crown witness in the resulting court trials. […]
In his confession, O’Brien told Dame Sian he answered to the “grey men” who trained him, on whose orders he lied to obtain the convictions at any cost.
“They called it Doomsday work and instructed me to take this dreadful secret to the grave,” O’Brien wrote.
“In every case I lied to the courts and I lied to the juries to obtain convictions against my targets.
“Telling lies was easy – ‘policemen don’t tell lies’ – and my targets never stood a chance.”
Tampering with evidence was also common, he said. Often the exhibit before the court was not the drugs that he bought from the target.
So his conscience brought about his turnaround. How many others didn’t have one?
“I am nearly 60 years old now, and in what time is left to me, intend correcting the wrong I have done.”
A herculean task.
You see, this is another aspect of the tragedy and disease of the drug war.
The social contract that we enter into for the safe operation of society gives extraordinary power to law enforcement, and with that arrangement comes incredible responsibility to be perfect in holding that trust.
Both the responsibility and the trust must be there for law enforcement to adequately do its job.
But the drug war corrupts. Not only financially, but in terms of that social contract. Police see citizens as their enemy and the ends start justifying the means. When that happens, they destroy the fragile balance of responsibility and trust.
What comes next? As certainly as night follows day, when the trust is broken — when the contract is not honored — extreme lawlessness and civil unrest follow.
There are a lot of good cops out there, and they certainly don’t want to be judged by the excesses and corruption of the bad apples, but we have no choice. How are we to tell which apples are bad by looking at them? Every damaged one we discover makes us even more suspicious of the rest.
So the good cops know that they must not cover up the activities of bad cops behind the blue code of silence. That, in fact, they must actively pursue and punish those who betray the badge. Otherwise they become tainted by the rot.
But that’s not enough. There is so much drug war corruption in law enforcement that those of us on the other side of that social contract quite simply cannot have confidence that the rotten apples are being found.
So the good cops — the ones who understand the importance of the trust — must take it a step further. They must root out the very cause of the rot, and advocate with all their might for the end of the corrupting drug war laws. Only then, can they salvage the contract and bring back the truth of their purpose.
For those good cops looking to take that step, I give you Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.