A South Wales Police inspector has been found guilty of assaulting a vulnerable 16-year-old who filmed him outside a police station.
Inspector Dean Gittoes, from Merthyr Tydfil, had "lost all rational thought" when he "unlawfully" detained the teenager outside Merthyr Tydfil Police Station on 20 August last year.
The 49-year-old had denied a charge of assault by beating but he was convicted at Gwent Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.
The court was shown footage filmed by the teenager outside Merthyr Tydfil police station in August 2021.
The youth claimed to be "auditing" the station at the time of the incident, which was captured on a now-deleted Youtube video.
The term auditing refers to a global online community of people who record and upload videos of government buildings, such as police stations.
Footage played during the trial showed Gittoes in a Swansea City football club shirt and black shorts confronting the teenager seconds before grabbing the boy’s phone, putting him into an arm lock and leading him into the custody suite.
'You were unable to control yourself or your actions'
It was alleged the South Wales Police officer was aggressive and, at one point, choked him.
Insp Gittoes was seen and heard saying "I am asking you who you are, what's your name" before saying he may be a terrorist.
The teenager told the officer he was entitled to film in public places and did not need to give his name.
Insp Gittoes was heard saying "you're a clever little internet freak who is going to learn the hard way".
He was also recorded saying "I'm sick of people filming us".
The youth’s distressed cries of pain and “he’s choking me” can be heard in the footage.
Prosecutors said the arrest was “unlawful”, claiming Gittoes, who was off-duty at the time, did not honestly believe the youth was committing a terrorism offence.
Instead, they claimed, Gittoes allowed his judgment to be “clouded” by his dislike of auditors and his ongoing frustration with his bosses over how a similar incident had been handled.
Christopher Rees, defending, said the veteran officer had genuinely believed the boy to be involved in a hostile reconnaissance of the building and that any footage he uploaded to the internet could have assisted terrorists.
The court heard how guidance issued by South Wales Police and seen by Gittoes, after similar incidents across the force area, advised officers that members of the public have a general right to film government buildings on public property.
It also said that if a person identifies themselves as an auditor, to ignore them.
Convicting Gittoes, District Judge Sophie Toms called the incident a “continued unlawful assault against a vulnerable 16-year-old boy”.
Judge Toms said: “What is absolutely apparent is that you were frustrated with nothing being done to stop the filming of the police station, that senior officers were not taking it seriously and were not supportive.
“Your view was that it was a dangerous situation as videos could be used by terrorists, but I haven’t seen any evidence to that affect.
“The best evidence of your thought process comes from the youth’s phone when it was recording in your pocket, you having left the youth in the custody unit and forgotten the phone was still recording.”
The court heard how Gittoes had not identified himself as a police officer, explained fully to the youth the reasons why he was being detained, nor did he caution him.
The inspector also left the station before completing a statement and had to be called back by senior colleagues to do one.
“You were clearly agitated and took no more than 30 seconds before you laid your hands on him," Judge Toms continued.
“It was a snapshot decision, and it was evident you were unable to control yourself or your actions.
“Significant unnecessary force was then used against this boy when he was offering no resistance.
“You grabbed his arm, used force against him, marching him into the station, twisting his wrist, causing him to fall to the floor, pushing him against the wall, grabbing the back of his hoodie preventing him breathing properly.
“He was crying out in pain throughout the incident.
“This was a continued, unlawful assault against a vulnerable 16-year-old boy.”
Gittoes was released on bail and will be sentenced at Newport Magistrates’ Court on 27 October.
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