The NSW police watchdog says it considered having a local public hearing into the violent arrest of a naked 16-year-old in the Shire, but decided not to because of ‘staffing, security and availability of premises’.
Locals have expressed frustration over the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission’s [LECC] decision to hold the public hearing into the January 11 arrest at its Sydney offices on March 26, as this makes it virtually impossible for the community to attend.
In response to these concerns, an LECC spokesperson told one local that ‘Byron Bay was considered as a location to hold the public hearing and a number of Commission officers visited the area to assess appropriate premises’.
‘A decision was made to hold the hearing at the Commission premises in Sydney based on a number of issues including staffing, security and availability of premises.
‘Members of the public are welcome to attend the hearing. Funding is not available to assist with travel. Members of the public are welcome to make submissions in writing to the Commission should they have information they believe will assist with the hearing and this information will be assessed by the Chief Commissioner.’
In response to the LECC’s decision to hold the hearing in Sydney, local youth advocate Nicqui Yazdi has launched a crowd funding campaign so that she and a number of other community representatives can attend.
‘We are urgently seeking funding donations in a hurry for airfares, airport transfers and expenses to enable representatives of the Byron Community to attend the public forum next Monday,’ Ms Yazdi said.
‘At the very least youth leader James Wright and I would like to attend this hearing on behalf of the Byron community and to write a report on the proceedings to bring back to the people of Byron who have been desperately seeking answers to how this incident occurred and how the initial internal police investigation was conducted..’
She questioned the LECC’s explanation for choosing not to hold the hearing in the community where the incident occurred.
‘We have had public hearings in the Shire before so I don’t really understand why suitable premises couldn’t be found,’ she said.
‘The Office of Liquor and Gaming held a public hearing in Byron when there was a proposal to build a Dan Murphy’s super store here and that was conducted without a hitch. We have multiple conference venues in the Shire and it’s not hard to get security in the area because of all the events and festivals.’
The violent arrest of the youth came to public attention on February 6 when Channel 9’s A Current Affair broadcast CCTV footage of the incident.
It footage shows an officer repeatedly striking the youth with a baton while three others hold him down in a lane in the Byron Bay CBD.
In a statement to the media NSW Police said the police had been called to the lane by residents at around 2.30am and arrived to find the youth, who appeared to be affected by drugs or alcohol, lying naked in street.
Police said the teenager then became aggressive, necessitating the use of capsicum spray.
The youth then allegedly attempted to assault the officers and was tasered, police said.
In a statement released to the media on Wednesday, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission said the ‘general scope and purpose of the hearing will be to investigate whether any NSW Police Force officer involved in the apprehension, detention or treatment of a 16-year-old male at Byron Bay in the early hours of 11 January 2018 engaged in serious misconduct’.
To contribute to Ms Yazdi’s crowd campaign go to www.gofundme.com/get-byron-