Melbourne October 1 2015 – A Northcote police officer found guilty of stalking in the Melbourne Magistrate’s court yesterday has hit back at Victoria Police, accusing officers of “fabricating evidence” and spying on him.
Constable Daniel Smith told the court on Thursday “did not feel safe” parking outside his Alphington home, citing concerns the building’s CCTV footage could be used by police to “stitch [him] up”.
“That opinion is born from previous history of Victoria Police doing similar things,” he said.
Mr Smith, who was convicted of stalking a woman between January 2013 and February 2014, denied that his accusations were an excuse to park closer to the home of the victim.
Prosecution lawyer Mr Armstrong advised the court to seriously consider the credibility of such claims, after launching a blistering attack on the constable’s earlier testimony.
Appearing anxious on the witness stand, Mr Smith pleaded not guilty to the stalking charge and said many of the incidents heard by the court during the four day trial could be explained by his “friendship” with the victim, who cannot be identified.
Defence lawyer Ms Hartnett described the constable as a “shy, socially awkward person” who does not understand social cues.
Sentencing Mr Smith to a community corrections order, Magistrate Keogh said the constable should have been aware his behaviour could cause serious mental harm to the victim.
“These are significant offences and in some respects made more significant by [Mr Smith’s] former occupation,” Magistrate Keogh said.
The stalking began shortly after Mr Smith, who has been suspended with pay from Victoria Police since November, first met the victim in January 2013.
Witnesses told the court the woman became highly concerned after Mr Smith terminated the lease on his new apartment in July to move into her street. He began bringing baked cookies to her workplace and using the building’s gym.
During her testimony on Monday, the woman described Mr Smith as constantly “hovering” around her, particularly during social events they attended with mutual friends.
“I feel you are always around me,” the victim told Mr Smith in a text message sent in December 2013. “I really just need you to back off!”
As the stalking escalated, witnesses close to the victim said she began to noticeably lose confidence.
Mr Smith admitted he told mutual friends he was “in love” with the woman and planned to re-establish contact with her following verbal warnings from police to stay away.
“I know it won’t change things but I have to try as I really see a future with her,” read a text message sent by Mr Smith in January 2014. “Just hope she doesn’t have another boy in the meantime, it would devastate me.”
The court heard Mr Smith also repeatedly called a mutual friend he believed to be in a romantic relationship with the victim, while the man was at her home.
Prosecutor Armstrong accused the constable of a “deliberate determination to impose himself on [the victim’s] life”, even after an intervention order was taken out on her behalf by Victoria Police the following week.
He said Mr Smith’s “ongoing obsession” with the victim had since led him to make 42 applications for variations of the order.
Witnesses told the court the constable still regularly “flouted” the existing 25 metre exclusion zone set out around the victim’s property by parking his car exactly on the boundary line five days a week.
Senior Constable Justin Goldsmith, a former colleague of Mr Smith, said he had personally spray-painted the boundary line onto the footpath to keep the constable away.
The case comes as new Victoria Police statistics show a drastic increase in stalking and harassment offences over the last five years. Between May 2014 and April 2015, there were 1511 stalking offences in Victoria, up from 372 offences in the 2010-11 period.
Crime Statistics Agency chief statistician Fiona Dowley called the increase “significant”.
Mr Smith is expected to be dismissed from Victoria Police following the conviction.