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June 4, 2023

‘It’s unfair’: lawyer defending policeman accused of youth assault criticises legal process

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A lawyer defending a policeman accused of assaulting a naked 16-year-old in Byron Bay nearly three years ago has criticised the legal processes sparked by the incident, in court.

‘This is such an unfair process,’ defence barrister Brent Haverfield said while Senior Constable Mark Sims, one of four officers involved in detaining the youth, was on a break from giving evidence on Wednesday.

All four officers have earlier given sworn statements about the events in Lateen Lane on January 11, 2018, as part of a Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) inquiry and both prosecution and defence have regularly referred to those statements in this week’s criminal trial.

But on Wednesday the defence barrister told the court witnesses in the LECC inquiry had been ‘cajoled’ into ‘giving answers’ in the earlier inquiry.

Inconsistencies between statements

Earlier that day the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP), acting on behalf of the Crown, had sought leave while Senior Constable Matthew Roach, the former police partner of the accused officer, was under cross-examination.

DPP prosecutor Brittany Parker said she’d found three inconsistencies between the officer’s evidence in court and the statements he’d given during the LECC inquiry.

The judge granted leave on two points: one concerning exactly when Sen-Constable Roach thought the boy was ‘under control’ and the other as to when the boy first responded ‘intelligibly’ to police.

No ambulance called to Lateen Lane

On Wednesday the court also heard officers must call an ambulance after capsicum spray is used and must call an ambulance after using a taser.

Sen-Constable Roach said there was no ambulance called to Lateen Lane and instead officers put the boy into the back of a paddy-wagon.

‘The real and only option was containment in the police vehicle,’ he said, ‘get him in a position far more comfortable in the back of the truck’.

He said the boy was ‘screaming the whole time’ during the police interaction, there was a risk he could get ‘out of control’ and agreed when Mr Haverfield said it was the ‘hardest’ detention of his career.

Watching video of alleged assault ‘quite stressful’ says officer

Sen-Constable Roach said officers were shown video footage of the early-morning hours in Lateen Lane that had gone viral on the internet ‘twenty, probably thirty times’ as part of the LECC inquiry.

It was ‘quite stressful watching it,’ he told the court.

Defence barrister Brent Haverfield suggested to the officer his evidence was ‘coloured’ by the LECC investigation.

‘It feels like the video is another witness,’ Sen-Constable Roach replied.

The defence reminded him of how he’d told the LECC inquiry the boy had kicked another officer off during the struggle.

In Lismore court this week, Sen-Constable Roach said he didn’t recall the kick.

Under control

 The officer then said he thought the first time the boy responded to police by giving his name when asked was after the final baton strikes under scrutiny in this week’s trial.

The prosecution must prove Senior Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh, 39, used unreasonable force when striking the boy, who cannot be legally named here, a final six times: if so, the officer will be guilty of assault.

Later the prosecutor asked Sen-Constable Greenhalgh’s former police partner if he agreed the young person was under control when the second set of handcuffs was applied, which was before the final six blows.

‘At my end, it looked like he was under control,’ Sen-Constable Roach replied.

When the prosecutor asked whether or not the young person had responded comprehensively ‘I’m not resisting’ when told ‘stop resisting’, as heard on the video footage, the officer said he couldn’t give a yes or no answer.

Officer involved in assault case has brain injury

The legal issue presented by the variations in evidence from witnesses in the LECC inquiry and this weeks’ criminal trial re-emerged during the testimony of Senior Constable Mark Sims on Wednesday afternoon.

But it was avoided in the case of the fourth officer on-scene in January 2018 due to the senior constable having suffered a brain injury since the inquiry.

The injury meant he was unable to give evidence or be cross-examined and so his 100-page transcript of evidence given to the LECC inquiry has been accepted alone.

Officer ‘can’t recall’ details

Sen-Constable Simms mostly said he couldn’t recall when the prosecutor reminded him of statements he’d made to the LECC inquiry and said he hadn’t read over the transcripts prior to giving evidence this week.

He says he didn’t say anything to the boy and the only thing he heard said to him was ‘stop resisting’.

He says he saw Sen-Constable Greenhalgh use a baton a total of four or five times and doesn’t recall hearing any other baton strikes.

During the earlier LECC inquiry, he’d described hearing strikes.

He says the boy was ‘under control’ when the ‘truck pulled up’ and was securely handcuffed when officers put him in the paddy-wagon but can’t say at what point he was securely handcuffed.

The day ended with the defence suggesting the boy was ‘under control -at that point in time’ before hearings were adjourned.

The trial continues on Thursday, with the judge saying it could also continue Friday morning.

Previous trial stories:

Northern Rivers policeman accused of assaulting youth on trial

Alleged youth victim of Northern Rivers police assault testifies

Alleged police assault youth victim needed to be ‘detained, taken to hospital’, says Byron officer











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  1. yea it’s unfair police should be able to assault youth with impunity, How unfair of the legal process to question police brutality.

  2. We ask police people to look after the ugly side of human behavior which is chaotic and at times deadly.

    The current culture of Blame and punish Police is fueled by MSM and our Woke keyboard warriors, who sit back sipping a skinny latte with organic sugar and chocolate harvested from child slave labor. This blame culture is happy to judge these officers harshly and feel like we have a better world, but have we really solved the problem? I cannot help feeling that the officers are also victims. Now criminals with a single event having destroyed their livelihood and has them entrapped in this media circus. The police are here doing work that few of us are brave enough or even capable of facing ourselves.

    Surely it would be more helpful to have a process that to reconcile and have a crisis support team that Helps both the Assault victim(s) and the Officer(s). People placed in extreme conditions do not have time or luxury to take their time and fully assess every possibility.

    This problem is a community problem rather than straight legal issue and there are ways to help our law enforcement Officers better handle these events that we expect them to endure. Our community has a Duty of Care to help our Officers providing them with a skill set and strategies to handle these stressful cases. I am sure there are some existing processes, and we should be focusing on how these processes failed. Police person who is unable to cope with the stressful conditions should be filtered out so they are not then put into these circumstances

    • Well said, Joseph. You’ve summed the situation up in a nutshell. It’s a fact of their working life that the police have to deal with violent situations. It’s also a fact that there are people with mental issues that they will have to deal with. And sometimes it will be hard for them to make a quick decision on how best to contain a situation.

    • Just insane hypocrisy that police shouldn’t be beholden to the laws they are meant to enforce.
      Obviously those authorized to use force should be held to the highest of standards.

  3. Joseph
    You must be joking right?
    I’m not aware of one of the police salaries being effected.
    I might be wrong but there is only one police officer facing a charge and he was just moved to Lismore to get him away from the heat he was a part of.
    Honestly I read what you said and thought for sure you must be a cop or close to one or more.
    It goes like this mate.

    Power corrupts.
    Absolute power.
    Corrupts absolutely.
    That is why there has to be accountability like there is for anyone else.
    Perhaps more-so considering they are police.
    Let’s face it.
    They just got caught this time.
    They didn’t have any idea they were being filmed.
    And I’m not saying it’s not a stressful job.
    It is.
    I can’t imagine having to deal with the things they must see. And on a daily basis.
    But that is why we entrust only people that can handle the job to carry out its role professionally.
    That is why they are “trained” and put into a position of authority.
    And that is why they need to at all times be held up to a high standard.
    There is no excuse for this behaviour and it is simply a case of what they believe they can get away with with ego and a sense of entitlement tied in.
    Maybe they ALL just had a bad day at the office.
    You can try and sugar coat it but it is what it is.
    And not just your everyday run of the mill common assault which is at the lowest end of the spectrum starting at yelling and scaring someone.
    Or like 2 guys punching on over god knows what that makes people attack each other.
    If the violence was perpetrated by the actions of anyone else but the police.
    It would be grievous bodily harm.
    A conviction would be recorded.
    And a gaol term imposed.
    But he will most likely get a section 10 “no conviction recorded” at best.
    And some therapy.
    And the police will continue to behave the way they have in Byron Bay and around the world for some time to come.
    It would have literally been dealt with years ago if it was any other person being charged.
    It’s almost like they want to drag it out because police are dealt with differently than other people and afforded special treatment.
    It is this side of it that actually gives me cause to feel for the officers involved.
    Swift justice should have been granted by now for all of those involved.
    Or no virus.


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