The year-long delay in deciding whether or not to charge a local police officer involved in the violent arrest of a distressed youth in Byron Bay is ‘unacceptable’, the state’s leading civil liberties organisation says.
In a strongly worded letter to NSW attorney-general, Mark Speakman, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) expressed serious concern about the delay in dealing with the incident, in which the officer struck the youth 18 times with a baton in the early hours of January 11 last year.
‘The NSWCCL is of the view that this delay is unacceptable,’ the secretary of the NSWCCL Therese Cochrane said.
‘The young person, who was seriously injured in this incident, and the community are entitled to know, in a timely manner, where the accountability lies in relation to this incident of excessive force and whether the officer involved will be prosecuted.
‘We expect this matter would be weighing heavily upon the young person involved.’
Footage of the officer, known as Officer E, repeatedly hitting the youth was aired on national television, bringing an outraged response from many locals and the wider community.
The teenager suffered broken ribs and multiple bruises and abrasions during the incident, which also took a severe psychological toll.
The arrest became the subject of a public inquiry by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC), which ultimately found that the senior constable known as ‘Officer E’ struck the teenager 19 times with his baton, including a number of times while the youth was handcuffed.
The LECC found that this constituted ‘an inappropriate use of excessive force’ and referred the matter to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions (NSW DPP) seeking advice as to whether Officer E should be charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
But the LECC, the community, the youth, and his family are still waiting for the NSW DPP to provide this advice.
Meanwhile, NSW Police have confirmed that Officer E has now left the Tweed-Byron region.
‘He is now performing duties at another command,’ a NSW Police spokesperson said.
‘He is no longer stationed within Tweed Byron Police District.’
The spokesperson also said Officer E was ‘subject to an interim risk management plan’.
‘We are still awaiting the DPP review of this matter. As that review is ongoing no further comment is possible.’