Police inspector accused of assaulting ‘vulnerable’ boy outside Merthyr station
A Merthyr Tydfil police officer on trial for assaulting a vulnerable teenage boy who was filming outside a police station told colleagues he was tired of “internet freaks”, a court has heard.
Inspector Dean Gittoes, 49, of Oak Tree Rise, is accused of beating the 16-year-old outside Merthyr Tydfil Police Station on August 20 last year.
Gittoes, who works for South Wales Police, denies using excessive force to arrest and detain the victim under the terrorism act.
Prosecutors say the arrest was “invalid” and that Gittoes’ behaviour related to him having had a “bad weekend”, and his ongoing frustration with how a similar incident which happened previously had been dealt with by his bosses.
The incident was captured in a now-deleted YouTube video which was recorded by the youth, who claimed at the time to be “auditing” the station.
Auditing refers to an online community of people across the UK, US and other countries who record and upload videos of government buildings such as police stations.
The footage taken on the boy’s phone was played during the first day of trial at Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court today, October 3.
It showed the teenager walking around the station building before being confronted by Gittoes.
Gittoes, who can be seen wearing a Swansea football club shirt and black shorts, asked the teenager for his name and to stop filming, before saying he suspected him of terrorism.
When the teenager refused, claiming to have the right to record on public property, the officer arrested him under the Terrorism Act.
The screen went black and the sound of a scuffle can be heard as Gittoes grabbed the boy’s phone and led him inside the police station.
CCTV from inside the station showed Gittoes holding the youth in an authorised arm restraint as he told him to “stop struggling”.
The officer then used the restraint to bring the teenager to his knees and he later appeared to forcefully push the teenager into a wall.
The teenager’s cries of pain and “he’s choking me” can then be heard as he is taken inside the custody suite.
Still in possession of the boy’s phone, Gittoes can be heard telling colleagues: “Six weeks ago I dealt with someone like this and the bosses so far think it’s a joke.
“Anyone I catch now I don’t give them a chance.
“I’ve got 36,000 people on the internet calling me a shit.”
The officer was referring to an incident which happened weeks before, during which he had a confrontation with another member of the online auditing community.
The incident was the subject of a public complaint at the time.
As the audio continued, Gittoes and a number of colleagues could be heard laughing about how the teenager was crying.
When questioned after the arrest, Gittoes said he restrained the teenager because he believed he could be dangerous, and denied purposely choking him.
Prosecutor Jason Howells said: “The prosecution say the video footage shows the victim was not resisting.
“The defendant went to speak to the victim of his own volition, purely because he had had a bad weekend and was annoyed at what had happened weeks before with another auditor.
“He said he was fed up of those ‘clowns’ and ‘internet freaks’ videoing him and putting it on the internet.
“We say the invalid and incorrect arrest and the way the victim was dealt with after the arrest amounted to an assault upon him.”
In his interview, the teenager said he was aware of the previous incident with the other auditor, and said: “I went there to tell him [Gittoes] what he done was wrong and I ended up being arrested.”
Describing the incident, the teenager said Gittoes was immediately “irate” with him and said he was in “shock” at how the situation appeared to go “from zero to 100” within a matter of seconds.
Referring to the restraint, he said: “The way he [Gittoes] was holding my hand hurt a lot. I was in pain.”
The court was told by Sergeant Martyn Karatov-Jones that the teenager was considered to be “vulnerable”.
Christopher Rees KC, defending, questioned the teenager, as he gave evidence via video link, over his motivation for being at the police station that day, accusing him of being there for “retaliation”.
Mr Rees also pointed to the teenager’s all-black clothing, including a black baseball hat and black face mask, saying the teenager was attempting to “hide his identity”. The youth denied both assertions.
The barrister claimed his client could have believed the teenager was involved in a “hostile reconnaissance” of the police station.
Detective inspector Katherine Morris, from counter-terrorism, was called to give evidence, and said that when she spoke to Gittoes on the phone he was “aggressive”.
She said: “I explained to him that in my opinion a terrorism offence had not been committed, but he just continued with his outburst.”
The trial is being presided over by District Judge Sophie Toms and is expected to last about three days.
The matter will also be subject to a separate investigation by the police watchdog Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
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