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March 26, 2023

Same magistrate, same police assault charge dismissed

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Family and supporters of a youth featured in a former Byron police assault case say they are turning their backs on the local court system after the same magistrate reached the same verdict in the same case. Photo: Mia Arrmitage

The family of a youth who endured multiple taser and baton strikes from police in Byron Bay five years ago has vowed to continue their fight for justice.

Magistrate Michael Dakin on Tuesday afternoon again dismissed a common assault charge against one of the four officers involved, former Senior Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh.

Beaten boy never arrested

The NSW Supreme Court found that a local magistrate’s decision to dismiss assault charges for Michial Greenhalgh was an ‘error of law’. Photo supplied.

Mr Greenhalgh no longer works for New South Wales Police and has so far declined to speak to media.

The state’s police watchdog singled the former constable out of the four for the state to consider charging after a high-profile public investigation in 2018.

Video footage of the incident went viral at the time and showed Mr Greenhalgh hitting an unarmed naked youth eighteen times with his baton.

The boy was later taken to hospital with a broken rib and police never laid arrest.

Instead, the state agreed to charge Mr Greenhalgh with one count of common assault.

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Brent Haverfield was the barrister representing former Senior Constable Michial Greenhalgh. Photo supplied.

Mr Greenhalgh, who had grown a moustache since the 2021 verdict and could no longer wear a police uniform, sat in the public gallery on Tuesday in simple beige chinos with his head bowed throughout most of the re-hearing.

The former constable’s wife, by contrast, who also worked at Byron Bay Police Station at the time of the incident, appeared to have barely changed, clad in her usual elongated silhouette of black and holding the same poise.

Mrs Greenhalgh sat next to her husband, nearer to the wall, and gazed steadfastly at the magistrate.

The former constable’s legal representative, Brent Haverfield, sat alone on the lawyers’ benches, with the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) beaming in via video link on two screens, one either side of the court room.

DPP Brittany Parke. Photo supplied.

Two police officers in uniform sat among supporters of the Greenhalghs, including Byron Bay Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe, who took up his position after the Lateen Lane incident.

The matter has been tragic on far more than the one count focussed on in court: the boy had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum before the incident and later suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, meanwhile, one of the four police officers on-scene that very early morning in January 2018 went on to suffer a brain injury and was excused from giving evidence in the trial.

Supreme Court verdict: error of law in Magistrate Dakin’s original judgment

A prolonged trial against Mr Greenhalgh ended two years ago with Magistrate Dakin dismissing the assault charge because he considered the use of force reasonable under state law.

But the New South Wales Supreme Court last year found an error of of law in the reasoning in Magistrate Dakin’s original legal judgment.

The Supreme Court said Magistrate Dakin needed to consider what a ‘reasonable person’ would objectively consider a reasonable or excessive use of force.

Challenged magistrate declines to recuse himself

Magistrate Dakin could have recused himself from the re-hearing but told Lismore Local Court on Tuesday he had reviewed the evidence and still found the force police used in the final six baton blows was reasonable.

Magistrate Dakin, a former police officer, said for a person assessing the use of force to be considered reasonable, they needed to objectively understand the police experience ‘in the agony of the moment’ rather than with ‘hindsight’.

It was the final six blows that counted and Magistrate Dakin maintained the measured pace of their delivery: three, two, one, meant the accused was under control and thereby exercising reasonable force as opposed to losing his cool under a so-called ‘red mist’.

The step-father of the former youth, who is now a young man, cried out ‘is this what you call justice? He was just a kid,’ upon recognising the verdict.

Outside the courthouse, the distraught parent told media the family would pursue whatever legal avenue was open to them.

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  1. There need be a Royal Commission of Enquiry into the NSW Police conducted for victims to set the standard of what is deemed to be excessive force, that this never happen again .

  2. Unfortunately as Magistrate Dakin’s decisions have demonstrated time and time again he seems to be against the Byron Youth, often denying a sense of justice for our young people. He seems to have single handedly committed himself to ridding the area of drugs and youth crime – but at any cost. And that cost is mostly to the youths themselves who can suffer unfairly under his often harsh decisions. We need less heavy handed cops and more empathetic magistrates it would seem.

  3. This is tragic and unbelievable. How can we have faith in the legal system when it is deemed ok to beat a young person 18 times when he was crying out for help. This is definitely not ok. I’m really shocked by this.

  4. So as long as your beating is delivered in a controlled and measured way then it’s perfectly ok and not excessive… uh, which law? where?

  5. I’m of the same street with the above people- Neville
    Milton John & Lisa .

    I don’t believe Magistrate Dakin and Justice were both in the same courtroom.

  6. Why did the matter come back to the same magistrate in the local court, after it had already been to the Supreme Court. Wasn’t their decision enough to conclude the matter and work out what to do with the former senior constable?

  7. Just reading this it makes me still sick in my stomach. I saw the video at the time and I could barely watch to the end, as this police man just did not stop beating into this young man, handcuffed and naked lying on the street. All he wanted was water. He was calling out for help. I felt actually traumatised by it and I know for a fact, that many other people did too. The young teenager’s drink could have been spiked, as a lot of that is happening in Byron Bay. Just horrific, that police seem to be allowed to apply such force. Sometimes I feel the best would be to give the same treatment to the police man and then we see how appropriate this brute force is.

  8. Police corruption is everywhere, even at the level of the judiciary it seems. This won’t change until the equally corrupt Perrottet government sets up a fully independent body to oversight the cops. I mean, giving a fox the keys to the henhouse. Disgusting.

  9. How bad a look for Byron Bay police and Magistrate Dakin?
    All support from police from the highest level in Byron in front of an ex cop magistrate who’s probably a little upset he hasn’t been promoted to judge.🤣
    More appeals hopefully.
    And good luck with that promotion Dakin.
    And if nothing more comes of this legally speaking.
    What an eye opener for everyone to see.
    The use of force by police in this state has now been magnified.
    And against a restrained autistic 16 year old.
    I wonder what message this sends out to other officers?
    Honestly though
    What were they doing handing this to an ex cop magistrate?
    And on that note.
    What were they doing sending it back to him?
    It must be a law thing hey.
    Sounds like the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and expecting a different result.

  10. In the livestock industry if a person were to be seen doing that to an animal they would be sacked for the bruising they would have caused to the meat making it worthless , of all people being an ex Cop Magistrate Dakin would know of the physiological damage as well as the psychological horrors Cops have to endure while carrying out their duties .
    For Justice to be served the NSW Police Service should have been found to have been in the wrong and paid compensation for the harm their training has caused and that those Cops involved should have been removed from public duties to be retrained or pensioned off if their actions were found to have been caused by the job .

  11. That the Supreme Court’s ruling of an error of law in the reasoning by Magistrate Dakin in this matter still permitted this magistrate to hear the same matter again is itself astonishing.

    That ex-police officers sitting as magistrates should be permitted to adjudicate on charges brought against former colleagues – as a class, even if not individually known – is a travesty.

  12. Policemen and magistrates that condone child abuse cast a cloud of shame over the entire police force and should be brought to justice.

    I feel disappointed and long for integrity.

    If Dakin had integrity he would stand down as magistrate because as a former policeman he has a Conflict of Interest.

    If Greenhalgh had integrity he would plead guilty to beating a naked 16-year-old with his baton,(at least 18 times), and accept the sentence he so justly deserves.

    The present outcome displays that the law , as it is applied to the general public, is not applied to policemen who commit the same crimes. There is clearly one law for them and another one for us.

    It allows him to walk away and know that he can re-commit his crime of child abuse and get away with it over and over again.

    Dakin’s ruling sends the clear message that anyone who lives near Greenhalgh, and has children, must constantly monitor his activity, because if he repeats his offence on other children, they will get no help from the law.

    I feel shocked and disappointed when I see that the head of the Byron Bay police, Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe, stands by in support of this criminal.

    This sends the message that, like Dakin, he also condones the abuse of children by policemen.

    And this undermines all trust we may have previously had in justice and our police force.

    As other have said, the fault lies in the lack of training and lack of psychological support in self regulation.


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