Headbutt incident pre-dated use of batons in lane, court told
WHEN Byron Bay police were called to reports of a naked, drug-affected male behaving erratically in the early hours of the morning in 2018, a recent traumatic incident was front of mind, a court has heard.
Senior Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh, 39, is defending a charge of common assault which arose from the January 11, 2018 detention of a 16-year-old boy in Lateen Lane, Byron Bay.
Police responded to reports of the naked teen yelling near the Nomads hostel about 2.30am.
Sergeant Christopher Neaves, who was the supervisor and custody manager at Byron Bay Police Station that night, told Lismore Local Court on Thursday the initial call-out was a cause for concern in the context of an incident a few weeks prior.
In his evidence, Sgt Neaves said it was an “obvious” decision to send two police cars to Lateen Lane.
“There was a previous incident back in Christmas time where there was a drug-affected male who (police) had great difficulty in being restrained,” Sgt Neaves said.
“I would have ensured both cars were attending to back each other up.”
When Sgt Neaves was led to expand on this incident during cross-examination, the court heard in December, 2017, two officers attended a scene on Lighthouse Rd where the naked drug-affected man, who was sweating profusely, headbutted a police vehicle.
“It smashed the windscreen,” he said.
He said that person was detailed “with great difficulty” and the officers were helped by “at least one” of the man’s friends.
The court heard this earlier incident became common knowledge among local police.
In the Lateen Lane incident, the boy was ultimately taken to The Tweed Hospital by ambulance under mental health provisions due to his level of intoxication.
But the circumstances of his detention in the laneway, and time spent at Byron Bay Police Station before an ambulance arrived, was subject to a Law Enforcement Conduct Commission inquiry after mobile phone footage of the teen being struck repeatedly with a baton was released.
DPP prosecutor Brittany Parker has alleged Sen-Constable Greenhalgh struck the teen with his baton at least 18 times.
The prosecution case relies upon six of those strikes, which occurred while the teen was handcuffed and restrained on the ground and which Ms Parker says constitute unreasonable use of force.
Sgt Neaves said his first impression of the youth after he arrived at the station was that he “appeared anxious, agitated” and in his opinion “in a drug induced psychosis”.
The court heard Sgt Neaves initially thought the boy was “18 or 19” but soon made inquiries to confirm his identity and age.
“Because of the time of night and the location where he was detained my initial assumption was he was a young backpacker or a young adult who’d been out that night,” he said.
Sgt Neaves told the court all four officers involved in the boy’s detention told him he was severely drug-affected, sweating profusely and difficult to control in the laneway.
Sen-Constable Greenhalgh informed him at the station he had deployed his Taser and used his baton multiple times, the court heard.
The teen was also OC sprayed twice by another officer.
The hearing was initially scheduled to run for four days but has been adjourned for a further three days in February.