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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 111

(Question No. 4885)


Mr Duncan asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice, on 13 November 1986:

(1) Did officers of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) visit the home of a Mrs S. Sellenthin at Swinger Hill, ACT, during the week commencing 20 October 1986; if so, did they (a) possess a valid warrant and (b) enter the home by force.

(2) How many officers were involved in the operation.

(3) Were the officers armed; if so, with what weapons.

(4) Were any of the occupants of the home threatened at gunpoint; if so, what were the ages of those threatened.

(5) Was Mrs Sellenthin's 13 year old daughter not allowed to get up from a chair to go to the toilet.

(6) How long did police remain in the house.

(7) Did the officers search 3 bedrooms, upturn a garbage bin in the kitchen, and rifle through Mrs Sellenthin's personal papers.

(8) Was anything found or confiscated on the premises.

(9) Was any occupant of the premises apprehended.

(10) Was the visit to Mrs Sellenthin's home conducted in accordance with standard AFP practices.

(11) Does he endorse the practices which were employed.

(12) Did the AFP compensate Mrs Sellenthin for (a) damage inflicted on her door in the course of entry and (b) the cost of cleaning her house in the aftermath of the search; if not, why not.


Mr Young —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) (a) AFP members, in possession of a warrant issued under Section 10 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act 1914, visited the home of Mrs Sellenthin on Wednesday 22 October.

(b) Force was used to enter the premises as the occupants, clearly present in the lounge room, refused to admit the police and because the police had information that a wanted police suspect was on the premises and that he was armed and prepared to shoot to avoid apprehension.

(2) Seven.

(3) All members were armed with their police issue service revolvers. In addition, two of the members carried single barrel shotguns.

(4) None of the occupants was threatened at gunpoint. However, police were informed that an armed offender could be on the premises and shotguns were pointed in the general direction of the occupants as police endeavoured to secure the premises. One police officer had also drawn his service revolver in support of the detectives with shotguns. A member also had cause to point a gun temporarily at a male occupant of the house, who had hidden in a bedroom and was believed to be armed.

(5) No. When Mrs Sellenthin's daughter expressed a desire to go to the toilet she was escorted by an AFP member, who searched the interior for concealed items before allowing her to enter. The AFP estimate that the delay in the girl's access to the toilet was no more than a minute.

(6) Police estimate they remained in the house for between 45 minutes and one hour.

(7) Officers searched the three bedrooms of the house and examined some personal papers of Mrs Sellenthin. At no stage were any garbage bins upturned.

(8) Police found a radio/cassette recorder on the premises which was later identified as being stolen and claimed by the owner.

(9) A juvenile male occupant was identified by one of the detectives present at the house as being wanted on warrant for escaping from lawful custody in August 1986. He was arrested at the premises and conveyed to Woden Police Station. Another occupant, also a juvenile male, was apprehended at the premises, since he was in breach of bail conditions relating to another matter.

(10) The AFP members involved followed procedures consistent with the threat assessment of the available information when executing the search warrant.

(11) I am advised the practices employed by the AFP are Standard Operating Procedures having regard to the information available to police when the search warrant was executed. Actions by the police can of course be reviewed by the Ombudsman should the persons involved wish to lodge a complaint pursuant to the Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act.

(12) (a) and (b) I am informed that the AFP has not received any request for compensation for damage done to the door of the house, or for cleaning the house after the search.