Police officer guilty of assaulting Indigenous teen

·3-min read
Flavio Brancaleone/AAP PHOTOS

A magistrate has dismissed a NSW police officer's claim that he slammed an Indigenous teenager to the ground in self-defence.

Constable Ryan Barlow, 30, has been found guilty of assault after he used a leg sweep manoeuvre on a Sydney boy leaving him bloodied and unconscious two weeks before his 17th birthday.

"We congratulate the family for bravely standing up in court against the same institution that left their son in hospital," the boy's lawyer Emma Hearne said after Monday's verdict.

Mobile phone footage of the incident taken by the boy's friend "for safety" was key to finding the serving officer guilty.

"I have no doubt many others suffer similarly from police brutality, and today's outcome is likely a result of the footage which provided clear evidence of what occurred," Ms Hearn said.

"I hate to think what could have happened if bystander footage wasn't available."

The boy can be heard in recordings saying "you don't have to hurt me" several times throughout the ordeal, including when he was laying on the ground with the officer kneeling on top of him.

He was arrested for saying "I'll crack you in the f***ing jaw, bro" to Barlow after four officers approached him and a group of friends in an inner Sydney park in June 2020.

Barlow said he felt threatened by the boy and that he performed the leg sweep because the teen had "kicked out" at his groin area during the arrest.

"I simply do not see what (Barlow) says occurred," Magistrate Rami Attia said in Downing Centre Local Court on Monday.

"The complainant is a 16- to 17-year-old young person, standing three to four metres away from the officer making no movements towards him."

Body-worn footage from police officers, as well as the mobile phone video, showed no kicking action from the boy as well as no reference to kicking between officers, the magistrate found.

When the boy continuously asked why he'd been arrested, Barlow said "for threatening an officer".

"I didn't threaten you, I didn't think you'd care, I didn't physically hurt you, did I hurt you?," the boy said during his arrest.

"It's a threat, mate ... you said you'd crack me across the face, mate we all heard it," Barlow said.

A police statement from the officer after the arrest also did not refer to any kicking action.

"Neither the kick nor attempted kick, the primary reason for the leg sweep, was mentioned until the 2nd of July," Mr Attia said.

Barlow also gave evidence he felt threatened due to a story he'd heard about an earlier incident involving the boy.

According to police, he was arrested after attempting to steal a can of Coke and allegedly brandishing a toy gun in response to police officers drawing their weapons.

"The toy gun could light up ... I have some difficulty accepting that that incident had played any significant role in (Barlow's) mind," Mr Attia said.

Barlow has been found guilty of common assault and common assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Police officers testified the "leg sweep" manoeuvre was an option given to police but was not one explicitly taught to officers.

The magistrate found the risk the boy posed to police was "not proportionate" to warrant using the manoeuvre, but acknowledged he had the benefit of watching videos after the fact.

"That is not the reality in which police officers work and operate," he said.

"Matters come down to very short time and split-second decisions."

Officers were investigating an unrelated matter in a housing commission nearby when they saw the group of teenagers gathered in the park.

The boys then put their hoods up and walked away from the officers before the altercation.

Barlow is out on bail and is set to be sentenced at a later date.

A NSW Police spokesperson said Barlow's employment is under review.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905