ADAM HOUDA says he's had enough. The Sydney lawyer, who specialises in criminal law, has been wrongfully arrested, detained or questioned by NSW police six times in 11 years. Now he is suing the police - for the third time.
In the latest incident, Mr Houda says he was arrested as he walked along a footpath at about 7pm on September 13 in Woods Road, Yagoona. Police deny he was arrested but admit he was spoken to.
Why was he stopped? ''Once again they said I was a suspect in a robbery,'' Mr Houda told The Sun-Herald. And he has no doubt it was because of his Middle Eastern background. Racism, he said, is alive among some police, particularly in the Bankstown area.
A senior lawyer who knows Mr Houda put it bluntly: ''The cops don't like the clients he represents or the community he represents.''
Mr Houda said he doesn't know whether he is being deliberately targeted. ''I don't know what it is - but what are the chances of it happening six times?''
Mostly, he has been arrested in the street wearing casual clothes, sometimes walking with relatives and friends. Other times he has been going to, or returning from, morning or evening prayers. After one arrest he was subjected to a humiliating body search. Several times arresting police have said they thought he was a suspect in a robbery or that he might have been carrying a knife.
He was arrested by the police for the first time in 2000 at Burwood Local Court after an altercation with an officer inside the courthouse. A Supreme Court judge later awarded Mr Houda $145,000 in damages and described the police treatment of him as ''shocking''.
In an incident on September 16 last year, Mr Houda and two male relatives were walking in Yagoona, near the Sefton Golf Club, just after 8pm. Two plain-clothes constables were patrolling the area in an unmarked car.
As Burwood Local Court later heard, the two officers earlier that evening had been sent an email from a Detective Senior Constable from Bankstown.
It stated in part: ''Over the last five days there has been an increase in robbery offences in the Chester Hill area and surrounds.''
It then detailed four robberies which involved offenders of Middle Eastern appearance between ages 15 and 20. Two of the offences involved knives. The email concluded by saying: ''Any groups of young M.E. males numbering from two to five need to have their bona fides checked.''
The court heard that the two constables both said simultaneously ''that's them'' and stopped Mr Houda and his relatives for the purpose of carrying out a knife search.
For Mr Houda, this was the fifth time this had happened.
One of the police, Constable Bernard Underwood, told the court Mr Houda had said in an aggressive tone: ''Let me guess, we look like the ones who did it.'' Constable Underwood said he replied: ''Well, actually, you do, mate.''
Mr Houda was charged with two offences - refusing a frisk search and resisting arrest. His two relatives were also charged.
When the matter came before Burwood Local Court recently, Mr Houda was represented by one of Sydney's leading barristers, Phillip Boulten, SC. The court heard that Mr Houda did not look like any of the offenders and, at 35, was clearly not in the right age bracket. It also heard that one of his relatives had grey in his beard.
In a judgment delivered on October 7 and obtained by The Sun-Herald, the magistrate, Michael John Connell, threw out all the charges against the three men and was critical of the actions of the police.
''The officers could not have had a reasonable suspicion that the three men were suspects in any of the robberies,'' he said.
Constable Underwood and a colleague had a ''limited knowledge'' and a ''vague'' understanding of the relevant legislation and had exceeded their powers. ''When the police act, it is important that they do so in accordance with that legislation,'' the magistrate said. ''Unfortunately, in this case, this did not happen.''
Mr Connell said: ''At the end of the day, here were three men of Middle Eastern appearance walking along a suburban street, for all the police knew, minding their own business at an unexceptional time of day, in unexceptional clothing, except two of the men had hooded jumpers.
''The place they were in could not have raised a reasonable suspicion they were involved in the robberies, given the distance from them.
''There was just as high a probability that the men had done nothing wrong and, more importantly, were not carrying a knife or knives."
That matter, and the latest incident on September 13, form the basis of his coming lawsuit. (The second lawsuit was settled on a confidential basis.)
Mr Houda said on Friday he wanted to put a spotlight on what was happening to him and other members of the Middle Eastern community to try to stop it from taking place.