Inquest Hears Sydney Siege Events Were 'Well Within Capabilities' Of New South Wales Police

21/03/2016 6:53 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Matt Blyth via Getty Images
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 15: NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione talks to the media outside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place on December 15, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. Today marks the first anniversary of the deaths Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson, who were killed along with the gunman following a 17-hour siege at the cafe in 2014. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

The Sydney siege inquest has heard the New South Wales police considered events to be “well within its capabilities”.

Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson and lawyer Katrina Dawson both died in the 17-hour ordeal while gunman Man Haron Monis was killed when police stormed the premises early on December 16, 2014.

Counsel Assisting Jason Downing continued the opening address on Monday afternoon, introducing the police response to the events of the siege that will remain the subject of the inquest's final installment.

The hearing heard that by 11 o’clock on the morning of the siege, the NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione was involved and the situation was declared an ‘act of terrorism’.

This prompted the activation of a set of protocols to respond to a terrorist act. A Tactical Operations Unit (TOU) was deployed and police command points were set up.

“We will hear from each of the successive commanders who filled particular roles,” Downing said.

Following the arrival of the TOU on the scene, an immediate emergency action plan was developed as a “standard procedure in response to high-risk circumstances”. Downing described the plan as 'reactive' and one that would be triggered in response to the hostage maker.

A ‘proactive’ deliberate action plan involving forced entry was devised in the early hours of the siege, but was only put in place following the shooting of cafe manager, Mr Johnson.

sydney siege police

The inquest heard on Monday that a number of snipers were set up to scout multiple vantage points surrounding the cafe, performing a dual role in identifying shots of the gunman and monitoring activity inside the cafe.

"The question of whether Monis could or should've been shot through the cafe windows or doors at some point has been the subject of some considerable speculation in the media and amongst the general public," Downing said.

He said the practical challenges faced by snipers and the legal considerations under which they operated will be discussed.

The hearing is set to investigate the role of negotiators who made frequent attempts to communicate with the gunman and hostages.

“I anticipate that negotiators will say whilst direct communication would have been preferred, they were content that at least some communication was made from inside the cafe.”

Monis forced some of the hostages to call media organisations directly and Mr Downing praised the respect of outlets for showing respect to police requests to not broadcast the messages.

He said the NSW police response should be understood within the context of counter terrorism.

“The response was at all times managed by the New South Wales police that made critical decisions, including when and in what matter to enter the cafe.”

The hearing will investigate the role played by intelligence as well as the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Force.

Coroner Barnes said he had received a report from UK police that was broadly supportive of the way NSW police handled the siege but noted it "questions some of the decision making on the day and some of the policies of the NSW police force”.

"Any criticism is constructive, solely aimed at striving to ensure that should a future incident of a like nature occur, the NSW police can be informed by the experience and expertise of the best policing organisations from around the world," Barnes said.

He is due to hand down his findings later in 2016.

The inquest continues.

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