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Victoria Police arrest the wrong black man for sexual assault – are accused of ‘racial profiling’ by ABC radio host

Victoria Police immigration detention sexual assault wrongful arrest

Victoria Police have been accused of “racial profiling” for wrongfully arresting and charging a serial rapist West Papuan refugee for sexual assault, after mixing him up with another man of similar age, height and ethnicity.

Alfons Pirimapun, 44, who was jailed for four years in 2018 over the horrific rape of a Melbourne woman, was released from immigration detention in November after a controversial High Court judgement, and is one of 37 sex offenders allowed to live in the community because the Labor government refuses to deport them.

He was arrested and charged on Wednesday with sexual assault, stalking and two counts of unlawful assault after two women were allegedly attacked in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond that morning.

But on Thursday Pirimapun was released and had his charges dropped after police found new CCTV vision showing another man, of Aboriginal appearance, allegedly stalking one woman as she was walking from her car at 10.15am, and allegedly sexually assaulting another outside a licenced premises.

That man, 55, has been charged with sexual assault, stalking and unlawful assault, and bailed to appear at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 16 May.

ABC radio presenter Raf Epstein on Friday interviewed Victoria Police Commander Mark Galliot, who explained how the bungle occurred.

He said the two men had a “very similar description, similar age, height, ethnicity”, and because GPS tracking data and preliminary CCTV footage put Pirimapun across the road at the time of the alleged offences he was taken into custody.

“Sounds like racial profiling,” Epstein said.

“Not at all,” Commander Galliot responded.

“Based on the descriptions and the evidence that we had at that time, there was grounds for the arrest. They looked very much alike and very similar, as well, based on the GPS data, gave police enough to satisfy themselves that this was the offender.”

Epstein later said: “It does sound a lot like ‘they both weren’t White’,” to which Commander Galliot replied “exactly, yes”, and said police have apologised to Pirimapun and the community.

Inner Melbourne Community Legal’s Police Accountability Project spokesperson said: “Victoria Police has a racial profiling issue that it has consistently and continually failed to address.

“When we hear comments along the lines of they were ‘very much alike in their appearance’ including their ‘race, age, height [and] clothing,’ alarm bells ring for our multicultural communities.”

Pirimapun was in immigration detention due to being convicted of sex offences in two different states, including for a rape in Victoria, and similar indecent assaults in Queensland where broke into the homes of three sleeping women and attacked them.

On Melbourne Cup day in Fitzroy in 2012 he bent a flyscreen and climbed into his victim’s bedroom as she slept and sexually assaulted her until her screams alerted her housemates.

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