Maurine Riziki, Tasmania’s first female police officer from a refugee background, points a training weapon in Hobart. (Supplied: Rebecca Thomson)
A former Tasmanian Police officer has avoided conviction for taking her 11-year-old nephew into a prison lock-up, where he was stripsearched and held in an adult cell, in order to “educate” him.
- Maureen Riziki acted to please her Congolese family who wanted the boy to be taught a lesson, her lawyer said
- Correctional officers, who at first believed the child was being held lawfully, became alarmed when there was not the paperwork required to hold him, the court heard
- The magistrate said despite Riziki being under pressure from her family, “I don’t think any 11yo should be stripsearched in a custodial setting”
Maurine Riziki, 29, pleaded guilty to common assault in the Hobart Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday after ordering correctional officers at the facility to treat the young boy “like an adult inmate” in January.
Riziki was in plain clothes and off duty at the time and used her police pass to enter the lock-up — where she planned to leave the boy overnight because “she had nowhere else to take him” following a family dispute earlier that night, the court heard.
Crown Prosecutor Rebecca Lancaster told the court the child, who had been living with his grandmother — Riziki’s mother — was held in the cell for about 10 minutes where he was told by correctional staff to remove the top half and then the bottom half of his clothing.
Riziki was called to her mother’s house to retrieve the child because she did “not want him anymore”, following troubling behaviour, the court heard.
“She [Riziki] said she just wanted him to be educated that if he continued with such behaviour, he’d end up in the cells,” Ms Lancaster told the court.
The court heard the correctional officers had acted in good faith under the belief the child was being held lawfully because Riziki told them the child was a male juvenile offender, but they became alarmed when there was not the paperwork required to hold him.
Ms Lancaster said the boy was scared, upset, stressed and lonely, and “wanted to leave” because “he didn’t want to be there”.
Riziki’s defence lawyer Greg Barns told the court she had acted to please her Congolese family who wanted the boy to be taught a lesson, and common sense gave way to family pressure in a “well-intentioned, flawed and desperate” action.
Riziki was the first Tasmanian Police recruit from a refugee background.
The court heard Riziki’s plan “wasn’t particularly pre-meditated or well thought through”. (ABC News: Brian Tegg)
‘You were someone in a position of trust’
Mr Barns told the court she had come from a cultural backyard where “elders and parents” were afforded an “enormous amount of respect” and held “considerable authority and presence”.
The court heard Riziki told a sergeant on duty she had left the boy at the lock-up because “it was safe and he would have something to eat when hungry” and because she could not take him home because “he would run away”.
Ms Lancaster also told the court Riziki’s plan “wasn’t particularly pre-meditated, pre-planned or well thought through”.
Riziki was employed on a 12-month contract as a special constable by Tasmania Police, but her contract was not renewed in September following the incident.
Prior to the contract’s expiration she had been assigned to non-operational duties following an internal investigation.
In sentencing, Magistrate Michael Daly described the nature and circumstances of the events as “very unusual”, saying Riziki showed “terrible judgement” under pressure from a strong and authoritarian family.
“I don’t think any 11-year-old should be stripsearched in a custodial setting, ever,” he said.
“You were someone in a position of trust. It alarms me that you subjected him to that.”
Magistrate Daly placed Riziki on a two-year good behaviour bond and did not record a conviction, taking into account she had lost her job, the respect of her community, and attracted public condemnation in the wake of the incident.