A NORTHERN NSW policeman has told the Police Integrity Commission that he was punched in the face by a young Aboriginal man, despite four other officers saying it never happened and CCTV footage contradicting his claim.
Senior Constable David Hill is among a group of police being investigated over an incident at Ballina police station in January 2011, in which Corey Barker, 24, was allegedly bashed by police and then falsely accused of assaulting them.
During the course of the inquiry, four of the police involved have gone back on the sworn statements they wrote claiming that Mr Barker punched Senior Constable Hill in the face and had to be forcibly restrained and dragged into a cell.
CCTV footage of the incident does not show any assault by Mr Barker. Rather, it shows police shoving him headfirst into a wall, and then kicking toward the 24-year-old’s head as he lies on the ground.
But on Wednesday Senior Constable Hill maintained that he was punched in the face, conceding only that he had been wrong about whether the blow came from the young man’s left hand or his right.
”I definitely remember it happening,” said Senior Constable Hill, who now works at Kyogle police station.
”I looked to the right, saw his hand coming, moved my head and it scraped my nose .. . I remember my nose was sore. I remember checking whether it was bleeding.”
The commission heard that an inspection soon after the incident showed no visible injury to the policeman’s nose.
When asked by counsel assisting the commission, Stephen Rushton, SC, why the alleged punch by Mr Barker did not appear in the CCTV footage, he said: ”I can only say that it might have been the angle of the camera in the footage …”
”I put it to you that it was impossible for him to have punched you, either with his left hand or his right hand,” Mr Rushton said.
”I wouldn’t say impossible, I’d say improbable,” the police officer responded.
When asked to explain how it was that his version of events contradicted those of all the other police present at the time of the incident, the officer said he had ”no idea”.
The officer maintained that Mr Barker was dragged into the cell by his handcuffed arms only because he ”resisted” when officers tried to pull him up, by being ”a dead weight”.
”I was telling him that we were going to lift him up … [but] he was a dead weight,” he said.
”I probably should have given him more time.”
Senior Constable Hill repeatedly denied that he had knowingly given false evidence to the Ballina Local Court about the incident during two hearings in which he claimed that he had been assaulted.
He said he had ordered Mr Barker to remain handcuffed after he had been placed in the cell so that ”he couldn’t assault anyone else”.
He conceded that Mr Barker posed little threat to anyone once he was locked in the cell, but later claimed that any officer who tried to remove the handcuffs could have been at risk.
He also said Mr Barker’s cuffs were removed not long after.
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