THE death of his younger sister in police custody at Maitland in 2016 and witnessing his uncle being shot in the head by police when he was 10 left Aaron John Maher with "significant anti-authoritarian beliefs" and a perception that "cops can get away with anything".
This ingrained distrust of the police was front and centre in the mind of Maher, a 44-year-old Aboriginal man and the older brother of Rebecca Maher, when he detained a man giving him a lift at Raymond Terrace in March, 2019, telling the terrified driver "I will f---ing shoot you" if the man stopped for police who were trying to pull them over.
Maher, who had pleaded guilty to detain a person with intent to obtain advantage, was jailed in Newcastle District Court on Friday for a maximum of two years and 10 months, with a non-parole period of one year and eight months. He will be eligible for parole in December.
Acting Judge Stephen Walmsley said Maher "possessed significant underlying anti-authoritarian beliefs", including that police can "get away with anything", stemming from the death of his uncle, who he said was shot by police when Maher was 10, and the death of his sister in Maitland police cells in 2016.
"In 2016, when Ms Maher died in police cells, Mr Maher saw this as another example that police can do what they want," Acting Judge Walmsley said. "He said he wished it was him in the cells that night. "He was unable to attend the coronial inquest because he was in jail and couldn't attend the funeral. "He is unable to watch video [relating to Ms Maher's death] because he finds it too upsetting."
In July last year, after a two-week inquest, Acting State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan found Ms Maher's death occurred accidentally when officers did not search her properly or provide proper medical attention.
Ms Maher's family later labelled the recommendations "meaningless" and had been pushing for charges to be laid against the officers.
On March 9, 2019, during a brief period out of jail, Maher was getting a lift with a 44-year-old man when police tried to stop the car in Irrawang Street for a random breath test, prompting Maher to tell the driver "if you stop I'll f---ing shoot you".
The man drove slowly as Maher repeatedly told him not to stop and pushed something "hard and cold" into the back of his head.
The driver, who later told police he never saw Maher with a gun, jumped from the moving vehicle and Maher got away.