EXCLUSIVE: In a sign of the times there has emerged yet more worrying evidence that Australia is sliding down a slippery slope into becoming a dangerous police state, with a Western Sydney granddad paid a visit at his home by NSW Police officers who insinuated he was a paedophile for simply creating a petition about the bizarre school hours of the local primary school his beloved granddaughter will attend next year. Toby O’Brien reports.
Steve Yucel is a devoted grandfather who lives in the western Sydney suburb of Merrylands. What happened to him last month, at the heavy handedness of the NSW Department of Education and NSW Police, should concern all Australians.
Mr Yucel’s five-year-old granddaughter is due to commence kindergarten at Merrylands East Primary School next year. However, Merrylands East Primary School has different school hours to other schools in the local area with school starting at 8am and finishing at 1.15pm. Mr Yucel’s daughter-in-law suffers from severe migraines and her condition means she is unable to get up early enough to transport Mr Yucel’s granddaughter to school by 8am.
When Mr Yucel contacted Merrylands East Primary School, on his daughter-in-law’s behalf, to raise these concerns, the school told him that there was nothing they could do about changing the school hours and his expressed concerns fell on deaf ears. Mr Yucel then contacted numerous bureaucrats at multiple levels within the NSW Department of Education asking for an explanation why Merrylands East Primary School had different hours to other schools but again his request was met with stony-walled silence.
“The school told me that there was nothing that they could do about it and the Education Department told me that other schools in the area had no capacity to take my granddaughter, despite the fact that medical issues constitute a special consideration in those schools’ enrolment criteria,” Mr Yucel told True Crime News Weekly.
Principal John Goh: Called police officers on a grandparent over a peaceful petition who then insinuated he was a paedophile (Image: Supplied)
On the afternoon of 21 October 2021, Mr Yucel positioned himself outside of the main school gate, on public property, where parents collected their children, with a petition that asked parents whether or not they were happy with the school’s hours. The school principal, Mr John Goh, approached Mr Yucel from inside the school grounds and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he knew what Mr Yucel was trying to do and that he was not allowed to force parents to sign a petition.
True Crime News Weekly has spoken to several parents who were present outside the school at the time and who said that Mr Yucel interacted kindly, peacefully and respectfully with all parents that he engaged with and at no time did he try to force, or harass, anybody into signing his petition. Mr Yucel gained almost a dozen signatures in support of his petition. Several parents of children at the school also voiced their discontent with the school’s operating hours but told True Crime News Weekly they were afraid to complain to the school about the hours because they feared retribution from Mr Goh.
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The day after conducting his peaceful petition, Mr Yucel was taking a nap at home when he was awoken to two NSW Police officers knocking on his door. The officers asked him if he had been at Merrylands East Public School the day before and told him that they had received a complaint from the school that he had been harassing people outside the school grounds.
Shocked and taken aback by the accusation, Mr Yucel told the officers that he had been peacefully conducting a petition outside the school, on public property, to which one of the police officer’s responded “you’re a middle aged man and it is not a good look for you to be out the front of a school”. The comments “stunned” Mr Yucel. Here were two police officers at his own home insinuating that his actions in peacefully carrying out a petition could be construed as conduct akin to that of a dangerous paedophile or a person intent on grooming children for sexual abuse. True Crime News Weekly contacted NSW Police and asked them for an explanation for this seemingly disgraceful police conduct, but no response was provided.
Merrylands East Primary School in Sydney’s western suburbs (Image: Supplied)
The police did not charge Mr Yucel nor were they able to provide him with any clear guidelines or advice about what is acceptable conduct when conducting a petition, on public property, out the front of a school. This entire interaction with police left him feeling completely humiliated. By having the cops called on him, it seems the school and the police completely overstepped the mark in their response to Mr Yucel’s peaceful petition. His petition was conducted on public property, not inside the school grounds, so the school and the police had no right to impose the force of the law on Mr Yucel.
The school also included information in the school’s newsletter to parents, in reference to Mr Yucel, telling them that there was a “strange man hanging around the school” and not to approach him. Not only was this inaccurate – Mr Yucel never set foot inside the school grounds – it is also defamatory. Just like the insinuations of the police officers sent to harass Mr Yucel at his home.
When asked why the school phoned the police on Mr Yucel, an NSW Department of Education spokesperson provided a vague and dubious response.
“With COVID-19 restrictions in place, the school contacted police to make them aware of the activity that would be taking place outside the school,” a spokesperson told True Crime News Weekly.
NSW Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, was also contacted to seek comment for this story but we did not receive a response.
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Instead of engaging with Mr Yucel and trying to address his concerns, the school attempted to intimidate and frighten him into remaining silent by setting the cops onto him. Setting the cops on a child’s grandfather for carrying out a peaceful petition on public property outside of school grounds would for many right-minded people be completely and utterly overstepping the mark. But, that’s exactly what the school and its principal did.
Mr Yucel is simply a devoted grandfather with an honest concern but the way the way he was treated by Merrylands East Primary School and the police was like he was an out-of-control vigilante. Rather than being respected and applauded for peacefully advocating for his granddaughter, it seems authorities instead treated him like some sort of criminal and tried to frighten this poor grandfather into submission. But it will take more than police intimidation and harassment to prevent Mr Yucel telling his truth.
Mr Yucel’s experience is by no means unique or rare as there is more and more evidence coming to light that this sort of abuse of power is becoming an increasingly, and worryingly, common occurrence in every day Australian life. Police are regularly overstepping the mark and encroaching themselves on every day Australians for exercising their basic democratic rights and civil liberties.
People need to be made aware of the abuses of power by authorities that every day Australians – such as grandparents like Mr Yucel – are subjected to otherwise our society will slide further down the dangerously insidious and slippery slope towards becoming a totalitarian police state.
– Additional reporting & research by Serkan Ozturk