Ballarat police officer found guilty of assaulting woman in custody escapes conviction

| 22.02,19. 05:35 PM |

Ballarat police officer found guilty of assaulting woman in custody escapes conviction

Security footage shows police using capsicum spray, kicking and stripping woman (ABC News)

A police officer who kicked a woman while she lay handcuffed, half-naked on the floor of a Ballarat police cell, has been handed a good behaviour bond.

Senior Constable Steven Repac was found guilty of one count of common assault in November, almost four years after he kicked former detective Yvonne Berry while she was facedown on her stomach after being arrested for public drunkenness.

In sentencing, Judge Paul Lacava told the court the officer's actions against the then 52-year-old were "gratuitous and uncalled for" and that he "breached" the public's trust in the police.

"Your defence … is a nonsense in relation to this charge," the judge said.

"The victim posed no threat to anyone, especially you."

CCTV tape key to prosecution

The 29-year-old's trial centred on less than 90 seconds of CCTV footage taken in the early hours of January 15, 2015.

In the vision, Ms Berry is covered in OC foam, or capsicum spray, with her underpants down and bare legs, when two officers enter the room.

The first officer, Leading Senior Constable Nicole Munro, is seen nudging the prisoner in the lower torso with her foot, before Senior Constable Repac stood repeatedly on her bare ankles and kicked her in the shin.

Judge Lacava said it was clear the officer had kicked her "with force" when she was "completely subdued … on the floor drunk, on her stomach, with handcuffs behind her back" and her "buttocks exposed".

He said Ms Berry was "completely humiliated and vulnerable".

"What you did was neither necessary nor reasonable," the judge said.

But Judge Lacava also conceded that the officer had an otherwise unblemished record and was young, just 25 years old at the time of the incident.

He said it was appropriate to adjourn the sentence and place Senior Constable Repac on a 12 month good behaviour bond, which means he will not have a conviction recorded against his name for the assault.

Senior Constable Repac's actions were a "spontaneous" mistake, said the judge, that amounted to one or two seconds of conduct.

Young people occasionally "do silly things", he said.

Victim called on judge not to record a conviction

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Ms Berry said she had suffered "nightmares, stress and a near breakdown" because of her four-year ordeal.

But she did not blame the Senior Constable himself for her treatment, and said there was a lack of leadership at the station.

"I forgive him and do not want him to lose his job. There are no winners in this, only losers," she said.

Judge Lacava said he took those remarks, which he regarded as "gracious", into account in choosing an appropriate sentence.

He also said that the Senior Constable Repac had already been suspended without pay from the police force and would face problems finding a job with a recorded conviction against his name.

His family and colleagues were in court for the sentencing and became visibly emotional when the officer was told to leave the dock after he was asked if he agreed to the 12-month good behaviour bond.

The Senior Constable was originally charged with a total of six counts of common assault in 2017, but after an eight-day trial last year the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining five charges along with a single assault charge for his co-accused, Leading Senior Constable Munro.

Both officers had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the Office of Public Prosecutions later withdrew those charges that remained after Ms Berry indicated she was unwilling to endure a re-trial.


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