| 23.07,18. 05:15 PM |
NSW Police officer who hit 16yo boy 'as hard as he could' during Byron Bay arrest may face criminal charges
NSW Police hit 16yo boy with batons during arrest (ABC News)
A police officer involved in a violent arrest in Byron Bay, in which a teenager was hit about 20 times with batons after being capsicum sprayed and tasered, could face criminal charges.
The 16-year-old boy, whose identity can not be revealed for legal reasons, was naked and under the influence of drugs when he was arrested by four police officers on the state's North Coast in January this year.
He was capsicum sprayed and tasered before being hit about 20 times with police batons, which was captured on video on a mobile phone by a bystander.
A forensic pathologist who examined the boy's injuries concluded a broken rib was probably caused by the baton strikes, though unintentionally.
Counsel assisting the state's Law Enforcement Conduct Commission today recommended the Commissioner of Police consider taking legal action against the officer who delivered 18 of those baton strikes, some of them while the teenager was hand cuffed.
The Director of Public Prosecutions may also be consulted about possible criminal proceedings.
Four officers attended the incident — and to ensure the privacy of witnesses who appeared before the inquiry they were given codenames.
One of the officers — referred to as "Officer E" — came in for the heaviest criticism for his actions during the January 11 incident.
Counsel assisting submitted that:
•He "unjustifiably used grossly unnecessary force" on the boy
•He hit the boy "as hard as he was physically able"
•He attempted to mislead the commission
Separately, the use of capsicum spray and a taser by a different officer — referred to as "Officer D" — was described as "unreasonable" and "premature".
The other two officers involved in the incident were largely cleared of any wrongdoing, as was the NSW Police Sergeant who was custody manager of the Byron Bay Police Station at the time the boy was taken there.
Lawyer raises boy's 'strength'
Michael Taylor, the lawyer for Officer E, said witnesses described the teenager as having the strength of three or four men.
"That was the perception of the officers at the time," Mr Taylor said.
"You don't have to wait for someone to attack you to use self-defence."
But Chief Commissioner Michael Adams QC said if the teenager had that strength, he was not using it.
"If he did it would have been like a Marvel movie with people flying everywhere," he said.
"Four on one is not bad odds, and they're all bigger than him."
Claims of fabricated justification
According to an executive summary of counsel assisting submissions, Officer E told a private inquiry the baton strikes were justified in order to get the teenager's hands from under his body as he was laying on his stomach.
But when he was presented with a video showing this was not the case, he changed his evidence, the summary said.
"It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this account was a fabrication designed to justify by reference to acceptable use of the baton strikes, what was otherwise, to the officer's knowledge, unreasonable."
Counsel assisting said the initial sight that greeted the officers bore an "eerie similarity" to another incident two-and-a-half weeks earlier involving another naked and drug-affected man in Byron Bay.
That incident, during which the man violently threw himself onto the windscreen of a police car and head-butted the side window, was said to go a "significant way" to explaining the officers' conduct with the teenager.
But only one of the four officers attended both incidents and the teenager's behaviour was vastly different, according to witnesses who described him as "more confused and disorientated rather than aggressive".