The family of a youth allegedly assaulted by a former Byron-based police officer say they will pursue human rights law if the senior constable is found not guilty.
Forty-year-old Senior-Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh told court on Tuesday he ‘only ever’ struck the boy, who was sixteen at the time, with a baton to ‘get control’.
Video footage of the altercation between the youth and four Byron Bay senior constables was shared in both a Law Enforcement Conduct Commission [LECC] inquiry and in the subsequent criminal trial of Sen-Constable Greenhalgh.
It reveals the boy received 19 baton blows, 18 of them from the accused, in the early morning hours of January 11, 2018, in Byron Bay’s Lateen Lane.
Senior constable denies entering ‘red mist’
It’s the final six blows that are under scrutiny in court, where the Department of Public Prosecutions put it to Sen-Constable Greenhalgh on day five of hearings that he had entered a state known as ‘red mist’.
People experiencing ‘red mist’, the court heard, become fixated on a target to the point where they exercise poor judgment.
Sen-Constable Greenhalgh said his tone of voice was aggressive when he called out at various times during the encounter with the boy but denied calling him a ‘wog cunt’.
‘I disagree,’ he said when the prosecution put it to him that he was frustrated and had ‘lashed out’ at the boy, earlier reported as wandering naked in Lateen Lane.
‘You lost your cool, you were angry, frustrated, you had lost control by the time you administered the final six strikes,’ prosecutor Brittany Parker said, ‘it was completely unnecessary and unreasonable’.
‘I disagree,’ Sen-Constable Greenhalgh replied.
boy could have ‘overpowered’ police, accused officer says
The officer, who worked at Byron Bay police station for eight years until 2019, said he had been constantly assessing and re-assessing the situation as it unfolded in accordance with his training.
He said he agreed the boy was ‘under control’ by the time he ordered another officer to get a police vehicle but said the remaining three officers then lost control of the boy and risked being ‘over-powered’.
The time between one officer leaving the boy to fetch a police truck and officers putting the boy in the truck is when Sen-Constable Greenhalgh is accused of using unreasonable force as he hit the youth another six times with his baton.
The Department of Public Prosecutions [DPP] said given the naked and unarmed teenager was at that point lying motionless on the ground in handcuffs with three officers pinning him down, he was unlikely to overpower them.
The senior constable agreed the boy hadn’t attacked anyone, after earlier describing him as making a ‘hay-maker’ swing at his colleague.
But Sen-Constable Greenhalgh said imminent violence was a risk.
‘You assumed there would be violence?’ Brittany Parker for the DPP suggested.
‘I didn’t assume anything,’ the senior constable replied as the day’s hearings drew to a close.
Alleged victim’s family prepared to take ‘long road’
Speaking outside Lismore courthouse, the boy’s step-father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told The Echo and Bay FM if the trial didn’t end to the family’s satisfaction, they would pursue human rights law.
‘We’re prepared to take this road as long as it goes,’ the alleged victim’s step-father said.
Sen-Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh was transferred to Lismore police station in 2019.
He is charged with one count of common assault.
Byron Bay police defend accused former colleague
Defence barrister Brent Haverfield presented four former colleagues of Sen-Constable Greenhalgh from Byron Bay police station and a former football club friend to the court on Tuesday.
The five men, including current Byron Bay Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe, variously described the accused as empathetic, dedicated and professional, an officer who put the concerns of his colleagues above his own.
Sen-Constable Greenhalgh appeared in the witness box in a dark suit and black-framed glasses, without the hat covers his hairless head in the video footage of the Lateen Lane incident.
He blinked frequently at various times throughout his testimony and spoke in a husky voice at first, before using a clearer tone as he repeated ‘I disagree’.
Closing statements for the trial due are due to be heard in Lismore courthouse on Wednesday.