A Byron police officer in a violent scene featuring an alleged assault of a naked youth nearly three years ago says the boy needed to be taken to hospital.
Senior Constable Matthew Roach has worked from the Byron Bay station about six years and has told a Lismore court he’s never used his baton in his thirteen years as an officer.
He was working in partnership with Senior Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh, now 39 and accused of assault, when the pair responded to a pre-dawn radio call-out to Lateen Lane, in Byron Bay’s CBD, on January 11, 2018.
A naked male was said to be walking around yelling at people.
When Sen-Constable Roach first saw the boy, he thought he looked intoxicated, seemed disorientated and wasn’t focused.
Officer says boy swung at him
The boy was naked and unarmed and Sen-Constable Roach remembers saying something like ‘listen mate, we’re here to help’.
But he had his capsicum spray ready and has told Lismore court the boy kept yelling and advancing.
‘He seemed unpredictable, drug-affected,’ the officer testified.
‘He wasn’t engaging with us, he got closer and closer,’ he said.
Sen-Constable Roach says he told the boy ‘mate, if you don’t calm down you’re going to get a gobful of this,’ before the boy took a ‘drunken haymaker swing’ at him.
Memories combined with video footage
None of the four witnesses so far asked, including the alleged victim, the backpacker hostel manager who called police and two holiday-makers in units overlooking the lane, has recalled the alleged ‘haymaker swing’ in court this week.
But the defence reminded one of the holiday-makers, Shane Marrion, he’d earlier given a statement saying the boy was ‘aggressive’ and ‘seemed to have the strength of three or four men’.
In court this week, Mr Marrion said ‘I wouldn’t say “aggressive”, I’d say “confused”’.
After a brief adjournment, the witness said his memories were now a ‘combination’ of what he saw and the video footage that was broadcast on commercial television and went viral on the internet.
Byron officer had ‘never seen anyone hit with a baton’
Returning to the testimony of Sen-Constable Roach, the Byron officer says the boy’s alleged swing didn’t connect and it ‘appeared the OC spray didn’t affect the person’ so he used the spray again.
Then he says Sen-Constable Greenhalgh used a taser on the boy, who he thinks ‘fell on his side’.
Video footage from the taser showed it was fired at least twice.
Sen-Constable Roach says the officers ‘couldn’t control’ the boy because he was sweaty and got out of their grasp.
He remembers seeing another pair of police on-scene and one of the officers hit the boy with a baton.
He told the court he’d never seen anyone hit with a baton before.
Officer testifies to seeing partner hit boy getting handcuffed
The boy yelled out and fell to the ground, he said, which gave all four officers an ‘opportunity to get on top’.
There was a struggle while Sen-Constable Roach handcuffed the boy and he says at one point he thought the handcuffs looked like they might come off but he stopped that happening by holding them in place with his foot.
The same officer who first stuck the boy brought out another set of cuffs and the boy was then double-cuffed.
Sen-Constable Roach told the court the same officer can be heard in the video evidence saying ‘cunt, give me your hand’.
He says he never saw the use of the baton again and never saw the fourth officer involved use a baton but saw Sen-Constable Greenhalgh use a baton maybe five or six times during the handcuffing process and heard more baton strikes afterwards.
Earlier he had remembered seeing Sen-Constable Greenhalgh positioned at the boy’s torso.
Alleged victim never charged
Back at the station after the boy had been brought in the back of a paddy-wagon, Sen-Constable Roach filled out a ‘Section 22’ form to report him for mental health assessment.
The boy was never formally arrested and no charges were laid against him.
‘He needed to be detained, taken to hospital,’ he said.
The trial of Sen-Constable Michial Greenhalgh for assault continues.