Excessive force over a bounced cheque

Early on the morning of Tuesday 3rd April I was awoken, on my own in my North Sydney townhouse, by two men in my lounge room screaming and demanding money! I had no idea how they’d gotten in, I was terrified and in shock. They demanded money and were taking my computers, stereo and other equipment, some of it not even mine but owned by someone sharing my office. Half asleep and in my pyjamas I was absolutely defenceless – I reached for the phone and tried to call the police but they screamed abuse at me and tried to prevent me from doing so. I was crying and asked them to stop but they just kept screaming, demanding money and stealing my possessions.

I couldn’t work out how they’d gotten into my house as I was asleep at the time and hadn’t heard any doorbell or knocking. I’ve since established that they broke in via a side door – they actually climbed onto a balcony and through a glass sliding door, breaking the lock, fly screen and blind. When I demanded to know how they had gotten into my home they refused to tell me.

Home invaders – Yes! But this was what many might think is legal as it was the Sheriffs Department.

All over a $1600 bill resulting from a civil matter, over a dividing fence, which I had been fighting in the local court. The matter had been in court for over a year and my solicitor and I had been in court only three weeks ago and lost the case. About a week ago I rang the Sheriffs office to advise them of this – they hadn’t yet been told by the court.

I also drove to their office at Dee Why and paid them the $1600 via cheque. Unfortunately, I was to learn the very hard way that morning that the cheque had bounced due to uncleared funds in my account. But instead of ringing and advising me so that I could replace the cheque with cash, they forced entry into my home and started a campaign of terror from which I don’t think I will ever recover.

This was clearly unlawful entry, apprehended violence, taking property without permission, theft and serious bullying.

I pleaded with them to allow me to go the bank when it opened and withdraw the cash but they refused. I begged them to not take the equipment and wait till the bank opened but they just mocked me. Finally the police turned up – whilst on the phone to the police these two sheriffs screamed at me attempting to prevent me talking to the police. But the police wouldn’t talk to me either – they only accepted the Sheriff’s side and were rude and sarcastic to me. The Sheriffs office showed them paperwork from November last year stating that they’d been trying to get the payment since then. This was incorrect and I begged the police to let me show them the most recent paperwork from the Court, which showed the case had only ended two weeks earlier.

In November the matter was adjourned but the Sheriffs didn’t have this paperwork with them, although I did but the police wouldn’t let me show them even though I pleaded with them to let me show them this documentation. I was still standing in my pyjamas terrified and crying. The police belittled me and treated me with contempt – as if I was a criminal. For the record I have never been charged with so much as a speeding ticket all my life. The police left – they weren’t interested in helping me whatsoever even though it was I that called them.

The Sheriffs continued to take all my office equipment and loaded it into their car. On the 17th November 2000 a Sheriff had come to my home regarding the matter and I told him that they case was adjourned. He did not have this paperwork so I invited him into my home so that I could copy the documents for him. Whilst doing this he wrote down items in my office without asking me. This was also incorrect as the case was only adjourned, not finalised, so he had no right to list any goods. These Sheriffs however, only had a sedan so they couldn’t take the desk or office chair that the prior Sheriff had listed – so they took anything they wanted including items not belonging to me. This included a printer that no longer works since securing it back from the Sheriffs office.

After they left, about an hour later, I sat on the floor crying for about an hour when I then called a friend and asked for help. I could barely speak I was in such shock and so distressed. My staff member also then arrived and she helped me go to the bank, get the cash out and we then drove to the Sheriffs office to give them the cash and collect the items.

It is unbelievable and unacceptable that this behaviour occurred- it is nothing short of home invasion; theft; assault and more! It was not as if they had tried on many occasions to collect the payment and hadn’t been allowed in – I was the one who told them the status of the case just one week earlier and had gone to them to make the payment. Sure the cheque bouncing was my fault but this type of thing happens to everyone all the time.

The Sheriffs office abused their power and the Police helped them. I no longer feel safe in my home, I’m depressed, traumatised and scared. If the police won’t help me who will? I demand a full inquiry into this matter but whom do I go to?

I do not intend to let this matter rest and appreciate your interest in this matter which may assist in stopping this unacceptable behaviour, in our community.

Peter Fray

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