ABC North Coast: NSW police officer faces court charged with assault of teenager in Byron Bay

A witness to the alleged assault of a teenager in New South Wales has told a court he heard a police officer say “you better not have f***ing recorded this” to a group of bystanders after the arrest, which involved tasers, capsicum spray and police batons.

Key points:

  • Michial Greenhalgh is facing a charge of common assault over the 2018 arrest of a teenager in Byron Bay
  • Witnesses told the court they were “uncomfortable” with the conduct of police
  • An investigation was launched after footage of the arrest was broadcast by the media

Then 16, the boy – whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons – was naked and appeared to be under the influence of drugs when he was arrested by four police officers in Byron Bay in January, 2018.

The incident was filmed by a local and sent to a news channel, which broadcast the footage and sparked an investigation by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.

The commission found one of the four officers could be charged for using “grossly excessive force”.

A four-day hearing is now underway in the Lismore Local Court into a charge of common assault against Michial Greenhalgh, who allegedly struck the teenager 18 times with a baton.

Mr Greenhalgh has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which relates to the last six baton strikes.

The prosecution argues those strikes constitute an “unreasonable use of force”.

A former Byron Bay resident who witnessed the incident said his partner felt “pretty uncomfortable” with what they were seeing and started filming the arrest.

Daniel Thomas said while the young man was naked and appeared to be “in distress”, calling for water and help, at no point did he seem violent or aggressive.

“It looked like he was either drunk or on drugs — he was definitely affected by something,” Mr Thomas said.

“I wouldn’t say aggressive … it was almost like the other people weren’t there.”

‘Please, God, I need water’

Mr Thomas said that after the arrest he saw one of the officers approach three or four bystanders and say, “You better not have f***ing recorded this”.

The court was played footage of the arrest, during which the young man can be heard yelling, “Help. Please, God, I need water. I’m not resisting”, while being restrained on the ground.

He was later taken to Tweed Head Hospital and found to have a fractured rib and extensive bruising on his limbs and torso.

The young man, now 19, gave evidence today, telling the court he accepted a beer from a group of slightly older boys who were drinking in Apex Park on the night of his arrest.

He described “everything getting very bright and colourful” after the beer and said his heart “started to race”.

He said he started to sweat profusely and began looking for water.

He said the boys left him in a car park and he was too disorientated to find his way back to the hotel his family was holidaying in.

The young man’s mother also gave evidence, saying her son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of five, but had no history of aggression, violence or drug taking.

The hearing will continue tomorrow.

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