ABC North Coast: Teen allegedly assaulted by police in Byron Bay took acid on night of arrest, court told

A teenager who was allegedly assaulted by a police officer during a violent arrest in Byron Bay in January 2018 admitted to authorities that he took LSD on the night of his arrest, a court has been told.

Key points:

  • A paramedic who treated the teenager described the boy as “combative” in his notes
  • A police officer told the court the arrest happened weeks after a drug-affected man damaged a squad car with his head
  • Earlier this week the teen told the court he had “strange feelings” that night after drinking a beer offered to him by strangers

Senior Constable Michial Greenhalgh is defending one charge of common assault in Lismore Local Court.

The charge relates to the last six of 18 baton strikes which were caught on camera and sparked an investigation by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.

The prosecution is arguing the strikes were an “unreasonable use of force”.

The hearing was originally listed for four days in the Lismore Local Court, but is now set to continue in February next year.

Byron Bay Police Sergeant Christopher Neaves, the general duties supervisor and custody manager on the night of the arrest, gave evidence today.

He said the young man, who was 16 at the time, spoke to him and a paramedic shortly before he was transported to hospital in Tweed Heads.

“Just before I got him out of the dock we finally got his name and he told us he’d taken acid,” Sergeant Neaves said.

Sergeant Neaves said he believed the boy was in a “drug-induced psychosis”.

Police feared repeat of squad car attack

The officer told the court the intention was not to detain or charge the young man, but to keep him secure and under supervision until an ambulance crew arrived.

Sergeant Neaves said the teen could then be scheduled and dealt with under the Mental Health Act, and be treated medically, given he had been pepper sprayed and tasered.

Evidence from the case sheet of NSW paramedic Benjamin Lally, who treated the young man on the night of the arrest, was read out in court today.

It said the young man “admits using LSD tonight” and that he “denies alcohol use”.

It also described his behaviour as “combative”.

Defence barrister Brent Haverfield asked Sergeant Neaves if the call to reports of a naked male behaving erratically had similarities to an incident that occurred a few weeks earlier, in which a drug-affected male smashed the windscreen of a police vehicle with his head.

“The concern was we had a similar situation occurring again,” Sergeant Neaves said.

Sergeant Neaves said he initially thought the young man was an adult teen and only discovered he was a minor while searching the police system for the boy’s name in the hours after the incident.

On Monday, the young man gave evidence and described feeling strange after accepting a beer from a group of slightly older boys in a park.

In Tuesday’s evidence, a witness described the young man as “confused” rather than aggressive and said the arrest was “pretty unsettling” to watch.

Yesterday one of the police officers involved in the arrest described it as the “hardest” in his career because it was like trying to grab “wet soap”.

The hearing will resume next year.

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