A naked and disoriented 16-year-old boy screamed for help as he was beaten by NSW police officers whose conduct is now being investigated in a Sydney public hearing.
In video footage of the incident, the drug-affected youth screams: “Please help me God” and “I’m not a threat to anybody” as he is surrounded by four officers and repeatedly struck with a baton as he lies on the ground.
The footage, taken from a nearby balcony by a member of the public, was aired on Monday at the start of a Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) hearing.
It is investigating whether any officer involved in the apprehension, detention or treatment of the boy engaged in criminal conduct or in serious misconduct.
Counsel assisting the commissioner, Terence Rowles, said four officers responded to a call that the boy was acting inappropriately before they used OC spray, a Taser and physical force including batons to restrain him in a Byron Bay laneway in the early hours of January 11.
The caller said the youth was disoriented and had not responded to any requests to leave the area near the Nomads Backpackers Hostel.
Police attempts to communicate with him or have him obey commands were unsuccessful leading to him ultimately being restrained, Mr Rowles said in his opening address.
He was taken to the police station and placed in a holding dock where he remained naked, before later being sedated and taken to hospital where he stayed overnight.
“He was undoubtedly affected by some drug or other, although toxicology tests did not identify it,” Mr Rowles said.
“He was not mentally ill.
“He suffered extensive bruising and one rib was fractured.
“There can be no doubt that, because of his interaction with police, he was in considerable pain and his distress was exacerbated by intoxication.”
Although the youth certainly was acting irrationally and obviously intoxicated, he had not tried to attack anyone, was plainly unarmed and was not heard to threaten anyone, he said.
The police faced a “difficult and unpleasant situation” which justified a reasonable suspicion of both mental illness and drug intoxication and “warranted immediate police intervention and removal” of him to a safe place.
“How they went about the task is the subject of this investigation.”
A holidaymaker testified that he was woken by screams of “God help me, I need help, give me some water” and swearing which went on for up to 20 minutes in the laneway before police arrived.
The teenager was naked, sweating profusely, pacing up and down, unpredictable and kept asking for water, as officers asked the “erratic and confused” youth to settle down.
He was ultimately sprayed and tasered, and the man said he saw the youth being struck a series of blows with batons as he was on the ground.
The youth looked like “he had the strength of three or four people”, he said.
The hearing continues.