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Police officer denies using excessive force in disability pensioner arrest

The officer, a constable at the time, told Heidelberg Magistrates Court on Friday that John was flailing and the other officers needed help to get the man’s arms behind his back.

Senior Constable Edney said he hit John’s left leg a “handful” of times with the 45-centimetre metal baton.

“My intention was to distract him in the hope he would relax his arms in order to be handcuffed effectively,” he said.

“After the first one or two strikes it was proving not to be effective so I made a decision to continue down that path.”

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Senior Constable Edney described the amount of force he used as 40 per cent of full power.

The officer said that after the sixth strike, he made radio communication with police command. He then put a foot on John’s head, he said, out of concern the man could bite or spit at the other police.

Senior Constable Edney said the amount of force he used in stepping on John’s head was the same as if he used his hands. After he perceived a drop in the threat level, he said he put his hands on John’s head to hold him still.

He denied his actions were excessive, unreasonable or unnecessary, and said the arrest was successful because John was subdued without injury.

The more officers involved, he said, the safer the outcome.

Senior Constable Edney said he was earlier fearful John would try to provoke police to shoot him, as he had previously asked police to do so, and raised it again on the day of the arrest.

“The key words used by [John] that raised my level of fear was to the effect of if the door was to be forced open, he would leave us with no option but to shoot him,” Senior Constable Edney said.

The officer said when John “burst” the door open he physically confronted Senior Constable McLeod, which prompted the group to drag him onto the front lawn.

Senior Constable Edney said he formed the view John had a weapon based on his words and actions and because he couldn’t see the man’s hands.

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But when challenged by prosecutor Diana Manova, the police officer admitted he never recorded in his note book his belief John was armed.

Earlier on Friday, magistrate Cathy Lamble ruled Senior Constables Hilgart and McLeod had cases to answer after their lawyers had called for charges to be dismissed.

Senior Constable McLeod has pleaded not guilty to three charges of unlawful assault and Senior Constable Hilgart has pleaded not guilty to one.

Their lawyers argued the use of a high-pressure hose to wash capsicum spray off John was justified because the pensioner was in pain and consented by moving his head into the stream of water.

But Ms Lamble said it was open to find the officers guilty over the hosing, as at one point Senior Constable McLeod filmed his colleague with the hose, which the magistrate said was contrary to John’s interests.

The magistrate also ruled Senior Constable McLeod had a case to answer to a charge he punched John in the stomach.

The contested hearing continues on Monday.

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