Spray cop found not guilty

ASSAULT COUNTS DISMISSED: Constable Luke Negri leaves the Burnie Magistrates Court yesterday. Picture: Kelly Slater.A BURNIE policeman who capsicum-sprayed a boy has been found not guilty of assault.
HangZhou Night Net

Luke Charles Negri used the spray after the boy struck his partner in an incident at Shorewell Park in January 2011, Magistrate Robert Pearce was told yesterday.

_Negri had pleaded not guilty to two counts of common assault relating to the incident.

His lawyer, Jim Wilkinson, argued Negri had done what he was trained to do in a volatile situation.

He said Negri, 25, acted “within his powers and within his training”.

Mr Pearce heard conflicting evidence on whether the boy was sprayed once or twice, and also on whether the boy struck Negri’s police partner before the spraying.

The partner, Constable Joel Houston, told the Burnie Magistrates Court he was struck and Negri acted consistently with police training.

Witness Danny Grieve – who said he was schizophrenic and had bipolar – asserted mobile phone footage he took that was played in court showed Negri wanted to spray the boy.

“What he done was wrong.

“He was getting off on that.”

Negri agreed with prosecutor Steve Bender grabbing the boy or using or threatening to use his baton had also been options.

However, he said he had not wanted to use his baton on a boy, believing there was more likelihood of injury than with the spray.

He said he was concerned using “unarmed tactics” in such a volatile situation could cause the situation to “escalate severely”

“It wasn’t appropriate … we could have been set upon at any time.”

The two police said they were being abused and shouted at by a group of people as they attempted to confiscate a motorbike that Mr Grieve had been riding without a helmet and unregistered.

The boy came in and tried to stop them, taking the bike before striking Const Houston to the neck, the court heard.

Mr Grieve told the hearing he didn’t see the boy strike the officer.

“He didn’t assault nobody.”

He said everyone was calm until the spray was used.

He alleged police later told him they would lay charges against him if he made a statement against them.

“They’ll beat you down and think of something to charge you for after you’re arrested.”

Mr Pearce dismissed both assault counts.

He said he was not satisfied the first spraying was outside the range of reasonable responses.

He did not find the assault related to the second alleged spraying proven.

He said no second use of the spray was apparent from the film and he found evidence from the prosecution witnesses who alleged it unsatisfactory.

Technical evidence also did not support it.

Negri had legal advice not to speak about the outcome, but was visibly relieved afterwards.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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