20 February 2024

WATCH: Magistrate says treatment of injured teen by police 'alarming and unnecessarily forceful'

| Albert McKnight
still from CCTV of incident in Civic

CCTV footage appears to show an alleged victim of a punch being taken to the ground by a police officer in Civic on 29 April 2022. Photo: Screenshot.

The treatment by police of a teenager who had just been punched in Civic, knocking him unconscious, has been labelled “alarming and unnecessarily forceful” by a magistrate.

However, the magistrate also rejected the suggestion that the concussion he received was caused by the officer, saying it was due to the person who punched him, while ACT Policing has said what it has learned from the incident will impact the training it provides.

Earlier this year, the ACT Magistrates Court heard the 19-year-old and his friend were walking on East Row in the early hours of 29 April 2022 when they got into an altercation with Jarrod Michael Dale and his friend.

Mr Dale was captured on closed-circuit television footage (CCTV) punching the intoxicated teenager in the face, causing him to fall to the ground and hit his head.

But CCTV also captured a later scene after police arrived. The teen had been sitting on the ground, but when he tried to stand up, a first constable appeared to grab his leg and pull it outwards, causing him to fall and hit his head again.

Mr Dale fought his charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, with his lawyer, Brandon Bodel from Legal Aid, arguing there was a question over whether it was the 27-year-old or this officer’s actions that had caused the injuries to the teenager’s head.

When Special Magistrate Gregor Urbas delivered his decision on Tuesday (20 February), he said the first constable had told the court the teen resisted him when he tried to get him to sit back down and his head went back “unexpectedly”.

The first constable also said the use of force was permitted in certain situations and he refused to accept his treatment of the teen was dangerous, saying it was an informed response to the situation.

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Special Magistrate Urbas was ultimately satisfied Mr Dale had punched the teenager, causing swelling to his face and a short-term loss of consciousness.

He was also satisfied his concussion was due to Mr Dale’s punch, and it could not be said to have been caused by the officer’s treatment of the teen, “alarming and unnecessarily forceful” as it may have been.

That he suffered a blow to the head at the hands of police didn’t overwhelm Mr Dale’s actions, he said.

Speaking after the magistrate handed down his decision, a spokesperson for ACT Policing said attending police had sought medical attention for the teenager as a result of his initial injuries and also provided advice on his intoxication, agitation and level of aggression towards police.

“Noting that decision, ACT Policing does acknowledge the technique used by the officer, in attempting to have the complainant remain seated and in a controlled position, was executed poorly and had the potential to cause further injury to the complainant,” the spokesperson said.

Jarrod Michael Dale, 27, had his charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm dismissed. Photo: Albert McKnight.

They said a Use of Force Report was submitted about the officer’s actions, which reviewed evidence and considered the context of the incident.

“The officer was counselled by the Officer in Charge of City Station regarding the technique he used on this occasion, and although he undertook the action in good faith, he was remorseful for potentially putting the victim at further risk of injury,” the police spokesperson said.

“ACT Policing has determined no further action is required against the officer, and learnings from this incident have been incorporated into ongoing Use of Force training for ACTP members.”

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Meanwhile, Special Magistrate Urbas had earlier said that the evidence established there was a reasonable possibility there had been threats and pushing and shoving between Mr Dale’s and the teenager’s groups before the punch.

Mr Dale claimed he felt “threatened”, and one of those in the opposing group said, “I’m going to smash you”. The teen accepted it was possible he said something like that, although he was unsure as he had a poor memory of the night.

The special magistrate said Mr Dale’s evidence was “somewhat unsatisfactory”, and he was not persuaded he had acted in self-defence, but that was not the test. The test was whether it was reasonably possible that he had.

He said due to the evidence, there was such a possibility, and he dismissed the charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The prosecutor then withdrew a back-up charge of common assault.

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