EXCLUSIVE: Queensland teacher, Anna-Marie Stancombe, was punished with a COVID-19 infringement two years ago for refusing to answer a police officer’s personal questions while on the road. This incident was later used in Family Court to grant custody of her children to her violent and abusive ex-husband. Despite the fine eventually being withdrawn and police apologising for their actions, she still does not have access to her children. Nour Ahmad reports.
On April 26, 2020, registered teacher Anna-Marie Stancombe was driving down a Queensland highway with her seven-year-old son in the car. She would suddenly be pulled over by Senior Constable Allan Ward from the Road Policing Task Force, who claimed that she had been speeding.
However, in released police body cam footage and Anna Stancombe’s very own live-stream video, the public was afforded a closer look into the situation.
In the body cam footage, the officer initially asked basic questions such as whether the motor vehicle belonged to Ms Stancombe, to which the teacher immediately answered yes.
However, officer Ward’s line of questioning soon started to drift away from the topic of speeding when he asked to know where she was travelling from – a question Ms Stancombe refused to answer.
The Constable’s tone would then become more demanding.
“That is a question that you do have to answer under the Queensland Health Act and COVID-19 Act. I do require to know where you’ve come from, where you’re going to and the purpose of your travelling,” Senior Constable Ward said.
“I do not have to answer that question,” she responded.
At this point, despite Ms Stancombe remaining calm and civil, the Constable immediately threatened Ms Stancombe with arrest.
“If you refuse to answer, you’re going to leave me with no choice but to arrest you,” he said.
Realising the situation was escalating, Ms Stancombe made the quick and clever decision to whip out her phone and live-stream the encounter on Facebook. This live-stream would go viral, especially when the officer opened the car door and leaned in to raise his voice at Anna, frightening her young son.
When Ms Stancombe simply queried what section of the Queensland Health Act required her to state her reasons for travel, Senior Constable Ward informed her that she was under arrest.
Ms Stancombe was given a $644 speeding fine and $1,334 COVID-19 Infringement fine, a punishment which Constable Ward gleefully told his dispatcher about over walkie talkie. The dispatcher commended the Constable who, ironically enough, proceeded to drive away while holding an iPad.
The infringement notice given to Anna-Marie Stancombe (Image : Supplied / Rebel News)
Following this encounter, Ms Stancombe took Constable Ward to the Human Rights Commission and managed to win. She was awarded a small settlement and a written apology by Queensland Police. They had seemingly acknowledged that she was wronged but refused to withdraw her COVID fine.
Back in 2017, Ms Stancombe had been given custody of her children from her ex-husband after engaging in property proceedings. This was about to change.
The bodycam footage would be shown at at a trial in the Federal Circuit and Family Court on August 2020 presided by Justice Margaret Cassidy but it was not viewed in Ms Stancombe’s favour.
During the trial, a police statement from Senior Constable James Leahy of Caboolture that was made back in 2018 would also be used against Ms Stancombe in court.
“I recorded a statement that I made to police and when my ex-partner subpoenaed the record there was stuff in there that I hadn’t said,” Ms Stancombe told True Crime News Weekly.
“The record said I had called [her husband] a bad father and said that he was never going to see the children again.”
Initially when Ms Stancombe complained to police about it she was not taken seriously. Eventually, however, it went to Ethical Standards in September 2020, where they admitted officer Leahy had lied and would be spoken to.
“Too little, too late,” Ms Stancombe said.
It was in December 2020 when Justice Cassidy made her judgment to remove Ms Stancombe’s children from her. The Family Court judge made particular note of Ms Stancombe’s encounter with police that resulted in the COVID fine, and claimed it was a clear and definite example of a person who could not regulate her emotions. As such, Justice Cassidy found Ms Stancombe to be an unfit mother.
“I am concerned that the mother’s capacity to effectively manage conflict resolution is compromised,” Justice Cassidy stated in her judgment.
“This has the potential to impact the children adversely and creates a risk of emotional harm to the children.”
Ms Stancombe’s ex-husband was represented by HopgoodGanim Lawyers, one of the most expensive law firms in Brisbane. He ended up winning the case.
Suddenly, Ms Stancombe’s children, who had lived with her since birth, were sent to live with their father and Ms Stancombe was left with very little money.
Anna-Marie Stancombe with her son (Image: Supplied)
Ms Stancombe believes that Justice Cassidy disliked her due to her personal views on the COVID-19 vaccine. Ms Stancombe has been public on Facebook about her views supportive of anti-vaccination groups.
“My ex-partner initially took me to court over the vaccine issue because I don’t vaccinate the children. We both decided not to but once we separated it’s just a tool to use,” she said.
The Queensland teacher has been suffering from her ex-husband’s abuse for the past nine years. The police even had a domestic violence order put on him.
“He had a full DVO and when that expired and we had separated I applied for my own DVO,” Ms Stancombe informed TCNW.
On April 2020, Ms Stancombe’s ex-husband sent death threats to her via her daughter’s iPad. When confronted by police he said that the message was a “joke” and police agreed to not investigate further.
Then, on January 3 2021, Ms Stancombe reached out to Acting Inspector Mark Norrish about her ex-partner’s abuse.
Mr Norrish brushed off her claims of abuse, stating she could not have an audience with the Commissioner who was “busy with matters of extreme importance to the whole of Queensland as opposed to individuals.”
Acting Inspector Mark Norrish brushed off Ms Stancombe’s concerns (Image : Supplied)
True Crime News Weekly reached out to both Queensland Police and Mark Norrish to ask whether they believe they should have done more to respond to Ms Stancombe’s domestic violence claims.
Both parties declined to comment, citing that the matters have already been dealt with by the courts.
The Queensland Police are no strangers to controversy, especially when it comes to women. Just this month, a state commission of inquiry found that female police officers were subjected to widespread misogynistic behaviour, sexist comments and sexual harassment from male colleagues.
It was revealed that officers did not believe a domestic violence incident involving two police officers because it was the second allegation and “you’d think she’d learn the first time.” An unnamed former senior sergeant also said that female investigators would have to “prove that they belong.”
It seems that Ms Stancombe also had to “prove” herself to the police, despite having the necessary evidence.
Another instance of abuse would see Ms Stancombe physically assaulted by her ex-husband at her children’s school in front of witnesses, teachers and children.
“Some fathers had to come and actually break it up,” she revealed.
Despite the fact that Ms Stancombe had written evidence of the police saying her ex-partner assaulted her, he was not charged for a very strange reason.
“Because he claimed he was trying to get my son’s school bag back police weren’t going to charge him as he had the right to the school bag,” she said.
In another shocking incident, two men known to her ex-husband came to her house and one hit her with his car, leading Ms Stancombe to go to the hospital to get an x-ray. Despite catching this crime on CCTV footage and making a statement to police, the men were not the ones who were charged.
“I was charged with common assault because the driver made a complaint that I had hit his phone,” she said.
Ms Stancombe revealed that police laughed at her when she was making her statement, saying that she liked making complaints and that they had been expecting one from her. It took nearly 18 months for the charge to be withdrawn.
“I found a good solicitor and he got it withdrawn because it was a load of crap but it’s very stressful, that’s why I ended up moving,” she said of the emotional impacts the ordeal had on her.
Soon after, on January 12, Ms Stancombe and her lawyer reached out to officer Glenn Miller about the incident. He excused the abuse.
“I can give you a whole list of people that have got grievances against [ex-husband],” Ms Stancombe’s lawyer said.
Rather than acknowledging the seriousness of her ex-husband’s very real abuse, Officer Miller blamed Ms Stancombe for hitting an inanimate object.
“It doesn’t mean its okay for Anna to hit the phone just because she has grievances with him,” he said.
The incredulous statement left Ms Stancombe’s lawyer in disbelief.
“Come on officer, you really gotta look at the big picture! He’s come to her place, he’s been harassing her, he’s been harassing a whole list of people,” she responded.
LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION THAT SHOWS POLICE EXCUSING THE ABUSE
In October 2021, Ms Stancombe’s COVID-19 fine was finally withdrawn after Fight The Fines Australia got involved, however she still did not regain custody of her children.
Even worse, Ms Stancombe tried to proceed to the High Court in March 2022 but an unfavourable outcome was decided without hearing oral argument and with no reason as to why it was dismissed.
True Crime News Weekly reached out to the Family Court with a set of questions.
We asked whether Justice Cassidy was aware that her decision to remove the children over a COVID fine that was later withdrawn had resulted in this life-changing consequence for Ms Stancombe.
We also asked whether Justice Cassidy would now view her decision as an overreach.
A media adviser stated the courts could not comment on individual cases, however, she offered to give TCNW a phone call to discuss family law processes. During the phone call, the spokesperson reiterated that they could not comment on the matters but stated that “the courts do not take decisions lightly.”