Role model's cocaine arrest victory
FORMER NSW Young Australian of the Year, Iktimal Hage-Ali, has won a claim for damages after a judge found she was arrested and detained unlawfully by police on suspicion of supplying cocaine.
The 26-year-old, who relinquished her title after her cocaine addiction was made public in 2007, was awarded just under $19,000 in the District Court.
Hage-Ali - a former member of John Howard's Youth Advisory Committee - was arrested by officers from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad investigating drug-use in south-west Sydney after police recorded her ordering cocaine from her supplier Mohammed "Bruce'' Fahda.
She was taken to Bankstown Police Station and held for several hours before being released without charge.
During her time in custody, she claimed she was subjected to threats and racial vilification from the police in an attempt to coerce her into giving them information about her dealings with Fahda.
Hage-Ali, who was working for the Attorney General's department at the time, agreed to turn police witness, however she insisted the drugs were for her own use, telling police: ``I'm just a f.....g addict.''
In evidence, she told the court she began using drugs heavily late in 2006 to cope with her feelings of depression.
"My father and my brother weren't too happy about me speaking on Muslim issues. I've always spoken far too much,'' she said.
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She also told the court she felt down because her family didn't approve of the man she wanted to marry.
Before she agreed to a police interview, Hage-Ali claims Detective Inspector Stephen Patton told her it was in her best interest to withdraw her nomination for the national Young Australian of the Year because she ``didn't deserve it.''
The trial heard Hage-Ali purchased 13.5g of cocaine from Fahda over 11 weeks and police had evidence in text messages and phone calls of her ordering on behalf of friends.
However, she told police she was lying to Fahda and the drugs were for herself.
Judge Michael Elkaim found that police did not have to resort to arresting Ms Hage-Ali, who was a person of outstanding character with strong ties to the community and an unlikely flight risk.
He accepted the submission of her counsel, Greg Melick, SC, that the police had a number of alternatives at their discretion, including issuing her with a court attendance notice, before arrest was strictly necessary.
He awarded her $18,700, comprised of $7,000 for compensatory damages for her unlawful arrest and $7,500 for a combination of aggravated and exemplary damages, plus interest at 10 per cent for the time elapsed since the incident.
Originally published as Role model's cocaine arrest victory