Police inspector on trial for assaulting vulnerable boy: ‘I stand by my actions’
A Merthyr Tydfil police officer accused of assaulting a vulnerable teenage boy who was filming outside a police station has said he “stands by his actions”.
Inspector Dean Gittoes, aged 49, is accused of beating the 16-year-old while off-duty on August 20 last year.
The incident outside Merthyr Tydfil Police Station 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 relates to an online community of people across the UK, the US and other countries who record and upload videos of government buildings such as police stations.
Gittoes told Newport Magistrates’ Court that due to two previous incidents involving auditors at the police station, and threats directed at officers based there by gangs, he believed the teenager to be a terror threat.
The previous incidents included the arrest of David Abrahams – who ran a YouTube page dedicated to auditing, called Iechyd Dai – at the station in September 2020.
Gittoes was not involved in the case against Mr Abrahams, who received a community protection notice (CPN), but the officer said he had heard about it.
The inspector was then involved in an incident involving another South Wales-based auditor in June last year.
The man was seen filming the police station and refused to give Gittoes his name.
Gittoes did not arrest the man after being told by a colleague that the auditor was an “attention seeker,” but a video of the interaction was posted online and attracted thousands of views and comments, some of which included people threatening to find out where Gittoes lived.
Giving evidence on Tuesday on the second day of his trial, Gittoes said he viewed the videos on the man’s YouTube page which included audits of other police stations and government buildings such as the Senedd.
He said: “It concerned me because it seemed to me he was focusing on government buildings.
“He was specifically mentioning where the CCTV cameras were, the weaknesses of the barriers and pointing out staff entrances and exits.
“It concerned me that these videos could assist someone wanting to attack a police station or wanting to do harm to a government building.”
He said he raised his concerns with senior officers but the guidance on how to deal with auditors remained unclear.
The court has heard that guidance issued by South Wales Police after similar incidents across the force area advised officers that members of the public filming government buildings on public property does not constitute a terrorist offence.
It also said that if a person identifies themselves as an auditor, to ignore them.
“I felt we should not be ignoring people on the basis of them calling themselves auditors if there’s a clear threat there,” Gittoes told the court.
In an interview with Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigators after his arrest of the youth, Gittoes said: “I stand by my actions.
“Sometimes you can’t follow the guidance and you have to take a risk.”
Gittoes claims he thought the teenager was involved in a hostile reconnaissance of the station.
The youth’s video and CCTV from the police station show Gittoes placing the youth into an authorised arm restraint and leading him inside the building.
He can be seen using the the restraint to force the teenager to his knees, and is later seen pushing him into a wall.
The teenager’s cries of pain and “he’s choking me” were recorded.
Gittoes can be heard calling him “a clever little internet freak,” a comment he admitted during the investigation was “unprofessional”.
On the audio he can later 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.”
‘Invalid arrest’ claim
Prosecutors say the arrest was “invalid” and claim Gittoes did not have an honest belief that an offence had been committed.
Jason Howells, prosecuting, 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.”
The trial continues.
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