29 July 2022

'Outrageous': magistrate slams police who threw driver on ground and left him face-down in gutter

| Albert McKnight
Screenshot of man being handcuffed

This screenshot from body-cam footage tendered to the court shows a driver who was thrown to the ground, handcuffed and left face-down in the gutter. Photo: Screenshot.

A magistrate has slammed what he called the unlawful and “outrageous” actions of two police officers who threw a driver to the ground before handcuffing him and leaving him face-down in the gutter.

Magistrate James Lawton said body-worn camera footage tendered to the ACT Magistrates Court today (29 July), and obtained by Region Media, showed the officers were physically and verbally aggressive during the arrest.

Throwing the man to the ground and leaving him face-down in the gutter “struck me as cruel and degrading”, he said.

“The actions of these officers was deplorable and should be denounced,” Magistrate Lawton said.

He said the two police officers pulled over the man, who Region Media has chosen not to name, while he was driving in central Canberra at about 10 pm on 18 December 2020.

One officer approached his car, opened the driver’s door and said: “Out of the car mate”. He grabbed the man by his arm and pulled him from the car even while the man was complying with the orders barked at him, Magistrate Lawton said.

The other officer pushed the man onto the ground and said: “Hands behind your f-king back now, c-t”.

Magistrate Lawton said the man “can be heard to cry out in distress”.

He was left face-down in the gutter in handcuffs while the officers waited for other police to arrive with a device to give him a breath test.

Photos showed the man with bruises and a torn shirt.

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Magistrate Lawton said while the incident was happening the driver appeared frightened and disorientated and asked what was going on several times.

He said while some of this confusion could be due to the driver’s alleged intoxication, some was also attributed to the unlawful actions of the officers.

There was no reason to forcibly remove him from the car and certainly no reason to throw him to the ground and leave him face-down in the gutter, the magistrate said.

He said the evidence could have very simply been obtained by directing the man to stay in his car and waiting until the other officers arrived with a screening device.

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He dismissed a charge of failing to provide a screening test that had been laid against the man over the incident and said he would send a transcript of his reasons to the chief police officer.

However, he admitted evidence to support a charge of failing to provide a breath sample, laid over the man’s alleged actions when he was taken to a police station, and adjourned that matter for hearing in August.

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