Six people died at Wieambilla. Not two. Not three. But six. Almost lost in the public clamour about the deaths of the police officers, is the death of the neighbour, already attributed to the now-dead occupants of the property. Unlike the police officers, he was not doing his job, he was not following the orders of his boss. He was being a neighbour.
The three occupants of the property have been tried and convicted of three murders in the court of mass media mediated opinion. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the only trial they will get. The Queensland Police Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) has ensured that. No-one in public discourse has offered a word of dismay or regret for the deaths of these three people. Let me do so. I am dismayed that these people are not in custody. I regret that they shall not be put on trial so that allegations against them can be tested. There will be a coronial inquest, but that is no substitute for a trial in which the interests of the defendants are forcefully put. Who will cross-examine the police?
This leads to the burning question that no-one is asking: why are these people not in custody? A police recruiting document for SERT included the following elements of the job description:
SERT has the capability to provide specialist tactical skills for the containment, evacuation, negotiation and resolution of siege incidents.
Armed offender intervention
SERT has the capability to provide specialist tactical skills for the detention, apprehension and arrest of armed offenders.
High Risk Warrant Execution
SERT can perform entry to premises in high risk situations for the purpose of detaining people…
SERT possesses a Lenco Bearcat (one of which we have seen in action against demonstrators in Melbourne recently), a Lenco Bombcat, for the Explosives Ordnance Response Team, and a OzBot Titan robot, “that can remotely, breach doors and windows, assist in the rescue of hostages, deliver and retrieve items in dangerous locations, and improve situational awareness with its digital camera.”
There was a 28km2 exclusion zone around the property. SERT was present, as were a large number of other Queensland police officers, and the Police helicopter. It seems that conditions were conducive to the resolution of the siege without further loss of life. Yet all three of the alleged offenders are dead, and, if the broadcast sound of the final volley of shots is to be relied upon, they all died within a few seconds.
As far as I am aware, Queensland Police have not even attempted to explain why a peaceful resolution was not possible. On the face of it, a decision was taken to kill these three people, and that decision was carried out by SERT. If such a decision were made, who made it? To any reflective observer, let alone one with a commitment to the rule of law, this possibility is profoundly disturbing. If, and I stress if, a militarised, heavily armed Police force decides that it can take the law into its own hands, a great leap forward has been achieved in the progressive totalitarianism to which we are being subjected.
Note the irony here. At least one of the three had expressed just such concerns. If it turns out that SERT has obliged with a demonstration of their validity, Heaven help us.