Cop on assault charge says baton strikes were 'necessary'

Update: 2pm A Northern Rivers police officer charged with assaulting a teen in a Byron Bay laneway has told a court he deemed repeated baton strikes necessary to gain control of a "difficult" situation.

Michial Luke Greenhalgh has pleaded not guilty to common assault over the January 11, 2018 detention of a teen boy in Lateen Lane.

Sen-Constable Greenhalgh has told his hearing before Lismore Local Court of the situation police faced that night.

"We had a job broadcast over the radio in relation to a young naked male in the street," Sen-Constable Greenhalgh said.

He and his partner were the first on scene, the court heard.

Sen-Constable Greenhalgh told the court Sen-Constable Matthew Roach tried to make conversation with the teen.

"There was some form of contact in relation to the two of them, whether that was a push, or a punch thrown," he said.
"From memory, there was a haymaker thrown from the young person.

"I was of the opinion the safest place for this person was to transfer them back to the police station."

The prosecution case relies on six baton strikes, inflicted while the teen was handcuffed.

Sen-Constable Greenhalgh said he believed these strikes were necessary because police were continually gaining, then losing, control.

"I was doing what I deemed necessary at the time to gain control."

The court heard SC Roach used his OC spray and the defendant told the court he then chose to use his Taser because they had not gained control of the young person.

"In my opinion it was necessary to detain him," he said.

"For his safety, for ours, the safety of the community."

He told the court the boy appeared to be "around 20 years old" and was "sweating profusely".

"He was either suffering from some form of mental health or being drug-affected, highly drug-affected," he said.

He said the Taser initially seemed effective.

"He collapsed to the ground for a number of seconds then he got back to his feet," he said.

He told the court it "absolutely" surprised him that the teen sprung back up so quickly.

When he tried to use the Taser a second time, the copper wires broke so an electrical circuit could not be created.

The court heard Sen-Constable Greenhalgh was trying to load a fresh Taser cartridge when their colleagues arrived.

He said he first became aware of their presence from the sound of another officer striking the boy with a long baton.

"(The male), from memory went to the ground after that strike," he said.

The court heard a first attempt to handcuff the boy was foiled when it began slipping off his wrist, and a second set was applied.

The court heard Sen-Constable Greenhalgh struck the teen with his baton 18 times.

He told the court the officers were making some progress in controlling the teen with each set of strikes.

Sen-Constable Greenhalgh told the court he first saw a video of the incident on A Current Affair while he was at home.

When asked by defence barrister Brent Haverfield whether this video  depicted a "true record of what occurred on the night", he replied: "not to my knowledge".

He said he viewed a more accurate version of the video, shown throughout 2018 Law Enforcement Conduct Commission proceedings, many times.

Sen-Constable Greenhalgh said each of his baton strikes were accompanied with commands to the teen.

He told the court getting the situation under control was "very difficult".

"I don't think we had control of him until he was in the truck," he said.

The defendant's evidence continues this afternoon.

 

EARLIER:

The prosecution case against a Northern Rivers police officer charged with assault has been completed.

Senior Constable Michial Luke Greenhalgh, who has pleaded not guilty to one count of common assault, has faced Lismore Local Court this morning.

The charge against him arose from an January 11, 2018 incident in Lateen Lane in Byron Bay.

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

A Law Enforcement Conduct Commission inquiry considered the circumstances around the teen boy's detention and Sen-Constable Greenhalgh was later charged.

The allegations were aired in a partial hearing before Lismore Local Court but after four days, the matter was adjourned to today.

Sergeant William Watt, who is attached to the Weapons and Tactics Policy and Review branch of NSW Police, gave his evidence on the final November day of the hearing, and his cross-examination has been completed this morning.

Defence Barrister Brent Haverfield has taken Sgt Watt through a range of aspects of police training, including the use of batons and tactics officers use to gain control.

The case against the accused relates to six specific baton strikes, allegedly inflicted while the teen was handcuffed and restrained on the ground.

In discussing tactical options used by police, Sgt Watt said when communication is not possible with a person police are trying to deal with, there are a range of other options available to police.

"Circumstances may exist where communication is not appropriate and they just move to the most appropriate tactical option to resolve the situation," Sgt Watt said.

He told the court pain compliance, including the use of batons, was among those alternative options.

The court heard of primary and secondary "strike zones" police are taught in relation to baton use, including the hip to knee and shoulder to fingertip areas.

When asked by the defence, Sgt Watt agreed it was possible for officers to accidentally strike another part of the body if a person was moving about.

In his earlier evidence, Sgt Watt has said the overriding principle when using appointments was "that the force be reasonable".

Mr Haverfield asked Sgt Watt about whether a person was necessarily under control when handcuffed.

"Just having someone handcuffed on the ground is not the be all and end all, it doesn't necessarily mean that control has been achieved?" Mr Haverfield asked.

Sgt Watt replied: "Not necessarily, no."

Four defence witnesses have so far appeared to give character evidence in support of Sen-Constable Greenhalgh.

The court has heard a further witness is to be called for the defence, as well as the accused himself.



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