Ex-policeman pleads guilty to rough justice

By: Tony Koch

A FORMER Queensland police officer who chose to dispense his own brand of justice for minor offences yesterday pleaded guilty to three of the most brutal assaults on prisoners witnessed in recent years, with the violence captured on security video.
Benjamin Thomas Price, 33, a father of two, resigned his senior constable position at Airlie Beach police station on Queensland's Whitsunday coast tourist strip after he was charged and is now employed as a tree-feller.
The CCTV footage shows Price bashing and kicking a young tourist who was handcuffed, and then almost drowning him by shoving a fire hose into his mouth for more than half a minute.
Thomas Steele, 24, a plasterer from NSW, suffered a broken nose, black eyes, a head wound, memory loss and lack of sensation in his arms and hands after the arrest at Airlie Beach on May 24, 2008.
He was trying to break up a fight between mates when a policewoman, Constable Bree Sonter, used capsicum spray on him and Price handcuffed him, slammed his face into the police car and dragged him from the car to the watchhouse where the assault occurred.
Price is seen on the footage yelling ``this is my town'' as the assault continued.
Other police are seen watching the assault, but nobody intervened.
Another of the charges related to slightly-built barmaid Renee Toms, who was flung about by her hair by Price and then body-slammed to the ground in the police station.
The third assault to which Price has pleaded guilty involved a man he punched in the face during an argument about urinating in public.
Price was yesterday released on bail and made no comment after judge John Durwood ordered he be remanded to Townsville District Court for sentencing on October 8.