A 16-year-old boy with autism who was beaten 18 times by police batons as he lay naked on the ground, has spoken nearly five years after the night that changed his life.
Dylan – not his real name – is now 21 and still very affected by what happened to him in the early hours of January 11, 2018.
He was in the town of Byron Bay, in northern New South Wales, for a family holiday and his mother, Katie – not her real name – reluctantly allowed him to go to a quiet nightclub near the beach .
Another teenager at the nightclub gave Dylan a beer, which turned out to have been spiked with a drug.
“I didn’t feel like I was in my own body, [it was] like somebody else was controlling or something,’ Dylan told ABC’s Background Briefing program.
Dylan wanted to find his family, but he was wandering around in a disoriented state and had taken off all his clothes.
The manager of a backpackers hostel in Lateen Lane was worried about what was happening and called the police.
Within five minutes, two officers arrived in a patrol car.
But Dylan’s vision was blurry from the effects of the drug his drink had been spiked with and he didn’t realize they were police officers.
What happened next, and how it happened, is the subject of dispute and has been investigated in a police disciplinary hearing and in court.
Police say Dylan tried to punch an officer but failed to connect, but other witnesses said they saw no punches.
An officer pulled out pepper spray and warned Dylan to “calm down, mate” or the spray would be used on him.
Dylan started walking towards the officers, but he had his eyes closed.
A second police car arrived and Dylan was shocked twice and pepper sprayed again.
“It was ugly, very painful, like your whole body was in pain and shaking,” he said.
Dylan was then hit in the knee with a police baton and tackled to the ground by officers.
A woman on a nearby balcony, who had heard the commotion, began filming the incident on her mobile phone.
The clip, which is two minutes and 49 seconds long, began with Dylan shouting “Help please”, followed by the shocking sound and sight of police hitting him with batons.
Dylan is pictured surrounded by police in a capture from video filmed from a nearby balcony
He is heard telling the officers “I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to”. I’m fine, I’m fine,” and screaming in pain.
One of the four officers surrounding him said “OK man, calm down”, but Dylan yelled at them to “Put me on my back”.
Dylan’s leg is then seen moving and the officers tell him to “stop it”.
One of them starts hitting him with a truncheon.
Another officer said ‘Give me your hand’ to handcuff him.
Police in the video can be seen standing on the chain of handcuffs as another officer pulls their vehicle closer.
The incident happened on Lateen Lane (pictured), Byron Bay NSW 2481 in the early hours of January 11, 2018
As the vehicle arrives, the heavy beatings continue as an officer shouts “Stop resisting”.
Dylan said he couldn’t resist them.
As the police explain that they will stand him up and walk him to the truck, Dylan is punched once more. – the 18th time.
A witness told a court that an officer strayed towards the onlookers and said “you better not tape this”.
This officer said it was ‘ridiculous’ to suggest he made the comment. He claims he was asking them if they recorded it, hoping they did.
Dylan woke up in a hospital bed, his body was black and blue and one of his ribs had been fractured.
He had no idea what had happened to him but will never forget what a member of hospital staff told him.
Byron Bay (pictured) is well known as a gathering place for young people and has a lively nightlife
“She said I should apologize to the police for causing such a problem,” Dylan recalled.
He found out at least part of what happened a few months later when the clip aired on Channel 9’s A Current Affair.
“The first time I watched it, I was kind of numb… I remember it was just weird seeing it from that angle and hearing it like that – weird,” Dylan told the ABC .
He then found the video on Facebook and was angered by the comments.
“It was like a hundred comments from people saying ‘Good for the police’, ‘Good job’, ‘Probably a young junkie’. I remember seeing that comment.
“You just feel angry and upset…and you keep it and keep it and keep it and you just feel like you’re going to explode.”
Katie said seeing the video made her ‘throw up’. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.
People are pictured at Main Beach in Byron Bay on March 29, 2021. The town is famous nationally and internationally for its party culture
Other students at Dylan’s school soon realized it was him in the video.
His grades dropped and he dropped out of school.
He had horrible nightmares and started having nocturnal flashbacks.
Katie heard from Dylan’s friends that things were worse than she thought.
“He would never have considered killing himself, but when he was 18, he often told those close to him that he didn’t want to be in this world anymore,” she said.
“In our faith, we are taught that if you commit suicide, you will not go to heaven.”
Dylan’s case has been referred to NSW’s Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC), which is investigating police disciplinary matters.
Surfers are pictured catching a wave in Byron Bay, New South Wales on October 24, 2022
Police can use force to keep themselves and the public safe, but it must be ‘reasonable force’ under NSW law.
The LECC focused on the last six strikes, when Dylan was on his back, with an officer’s boot on his handcuff chain.
An officer told the commission that the strikes were “unnecessary” and “a bit over the top”.
But the officer who delivered those final six blows said they were needed to restrain Dylan as he was still struggling.
The final report was released seven months later and said: “It is evident that (the) intention was to beat (Dylan) until he complied and, even when handcuffed, ( the officer) did not give up,” he said.
“The commission finds that (the) use of his truncheon amounted to the use of excessively excessive force for which there was no justification.”
The last six strikes were deemed “unreasonable, deliberate, grossly excessive and far beyond a mere error of judgement”.
The report says that consideration should be given to prosecuting one of the officers for assault.
In October 2019, Senior Constable Michial Greenhalgh – the officer who hit Dylan with the final six blows from his baton – was charged with common assault.
He denied that these last six strikes were excessive, saying that although Dylan was unarmed, he was violent and continued to thrash and kick even after being handcuffed.
Other officers said Dylan resisted them with “extraordinary physical strength”.
Magistrate Michael Dakin delivered his verdict, he said he preferred the officers’ version of what happened and said the testimony of civilian witnesses had been contaminated by seeing the video before the trial.
He said the gaps between Greenhalgh’s baton blows proved the officer’s actions were not reckless.
“The revealing part of the evidence, in my view, is the video evidence of those truncheon blows… If it was, in my view, the case that the defendant acted in the red fog, or the red mist… he There wouldn’t be any gap between the keystrokes,” Judge said.
The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in July 2022 and remitted to Magistrate Dakin of Lismore Court for reconsideration in February 2023.
In a statement to Daily Mail Australia, police said ‘the officer involved is no longer employed by NSW Police Force’
Dylan still bears the scars of the night that changed his life forever. There are still two parallel white scars on his wrist where the police tied the handcuffs on him.
But it’s the mental scars that bother Dylan the most, and have for nearly five years.
“I know…they have a lot to deal with and it can sometimes be life or death situations,” he said.
“But my situation – what happened to me – was not a life or death situation at all. It’s not like I’m an imminent threat of violence.
Katie said the officers ‘didn’t go through what I went through or what my son went through, so I really don’t care what they say’.
In a statement to Daily Mail Australia, NSW Police said: ‘An internal investigation has been carried out into the incident and the matter has been referred to the LECC.
“As the matter remains before the LECC, it would be inappropriate to comment further.
“The officer involved is no longer employed by NSW Police.”
Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyond the blue 1300 22 4636.