Northern Star: Cop ‘did what was necessary’ to detain naked teen

Update 4.30pm: A Northern Rivers police officer has walked free from court after being found not guilty of a charge of common assault.

Lismore Local Court began hearing evidence in the case against Senior Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh, 39, in November last year.

The hearing continued before Magistrate Michael Dakin this week.

The officer pleaded not guilty to a charge of common assault, which the prosecution alleged he committed by way of six of 18 baton strikes he inflicted upon a naked and drug-affected 16-year-old boy in Lateen Lane, Byron Bay in the early hours of January 11, 2018.

Magistrate Michael Dakin has this afternoon dismissed the charge, finding the prosecution had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt Sen-Constable Greenhalgh’s actions were not a reasonable use of force.

“The defendant’s evidence is that he did what was necessary,” Mr Dakin said.

“The defendant’s evidence is that he didn’t go beyond that.”

Mr Dakin found the officer gave his evidence in a “straightforward” fashion.

“He did not accept propositions put to him that he was excessive, that he had lost his temper, that he was angry or …vengeful in using the baton strikes in the way that he did,” Mr Dakin said.

Mr Dakin accepted evidence that the four officers at the scene were confronted with a difficult situation.

“The behaviour of the young person was such that it required four police, at various times, to restrain him, in an attempt to control him,” he said.

Mr Dakin said the fact the six baton strikes which were subject to the charge were inflicted in groups of three, then two, then a single strike – with gaps between them – was at odds with the prosecution suggestion he was acting in a rage.

He accepted the teen’s behaviour was “volatile and unpredictable” at the time.

“If it were, in my view, the case the defendant had acted in the “red mist” (as described by the prosecution) there would not be any gap between the strikes,” Mr Dakin said.

“Someone who had lost control and lost their temper, there would not have been any gap between those strikes.”

He dismissed the charge.

Sen-Constable Greenhalgh, his defence team and the prosecution have declined to comment on the outcome outside court. 

Update 4pm: A Northern Rivers police officer has been found not guilty of assaulting a teen in Byron Bay.

More to come. 

Original story: Closing submissions have been delivered in the hearing of a Northern Rivers police officer charged with assaulting a teen in Byron Bay.

Senior Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh, 39, has pleaded not guilty to common assault and has been defending the charge before a hearing in Lismore Local Court.

The DPP has alleged the officer used unreasonable force during an interaction with a 16-year-old boy, who was naked and drug-affected, in Lateen Lane in Byron Bay in the early hours of January 11, 2018.Play VideoPolice officer fighting assault charge arrives at Lismore Courthouse: Senior Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh arrives at Lismore Courthouse along with his wife for the fifth day of the hearing into a common assault allegation, which he is defending.

Police were called to the laneway about 2.30am in response to reports of a naked male acting erratically.

The prosecution and defence have this morning delivered their final submissions in the case.

Magistrate Michael Dakin has asked for some evidence, including CCTV from Byron Bay Police Station following the laneway incident and part of the accused’s evidence, to be replayed before the court.

THE PROSECUTION CASE

DPP prosecutor Brittany Parker has argued the court should find the officer guilty of common assault.

Ms Parker said of 18 strikes the defendant inflicted upon the young person, the court should find the final six were not reasonable.

“In my submission, your honour would be comfortably satisfied the final six strikes … were not reasonably necessary or a reasonable use of force,” Ms Parker said.

Ms Parker argued “the situation was significantly different” from the time another officer struck the teen to the leg with his baton, taking him to the ground.

She submitted the teen was “distressed” but was not “continually violently resisting”, as police claimed in notes from the incident.”

In my submission your honour would have no difficulty concluding … the young person was naked, unarmed handcuffed,” she said.

“He posed next to no threat to the accused or anyone else at that time.”

Ms Parker argued civilian witnesses supported the prosecution case that Sen-Constable Greenhalgh’s actions were “not a reasonable response to the circumstances as he perceived them”.

“The young person was in an affected state, yelling out for help and water,” she said.

“He was not acting violently or aggressively and he was unable to comprehend his surroundings.

“This was not a situation where police were confronted by a violent, armed or possibly armed offender.

“Instead this was a scared and naked young person who was unable to comprehend the police directions and was in need of help.

“In my submission those final six strikes were an entirely unreasonable use of force.

“I invite your honour to find the accused had lost control.”

THE DEFENCE CASE

Defence barrister Brent Haverfield began his closing submissions by quoting an oath all NSW Police officers must take when they begin their service.

Mr Haverfield said the public expectation would have been for police to attend Lateen Lane on the morning in question.

“They had a duty and they had an obligation to try to deal with what was presented to them,” Mr Haverfield said.

He argued there was a “contamination” of witness recollections in the way mobile phone footage of part of the laneway incident was played to some dozens of times during an earlier Law Enforcement Conduct Commission inquiry.

“It’s an appalling, gross contamination of witnesses by an authority who should know better,” he said.

“He never lost control.

“It was always meted, he always knew what he was trying to do and what he was trying to achieve.”Play VideoDefence barrister Brent Haverfield arrives at Lismore Courthouse. : Defence barrister Brent Haverfield, who is defending Michial Luke Greenhalgh in a hearing into the alleged assault of a teen in Byron Bay, arrives at Lismore Courthouse.

He pointed to a paramedic’s evidence that the teen was most likely observed still suffering from drug-induced psychosis in the ambulance, after being sedated.

Mr Haverfield told the court the prosecution has not “proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that his client did not deem his actions necessary in the circumstances as he perceived them.

Sen-Constable Greenhalgh had earlier told the court the team of four officers at the scene continually gained, then lost, control of the teen in their attempt to detain him.

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