Inspector sentenced for assaulting vulnerable boy outside police station

A police officer who assaulted a vulnerable teenager after arresting him under the Terrorism Act has been convicted.

Inspector Dean Gittoes, 49, of Oak Tree Rise, Merthyr Tydfil, ‘unlawfully’ detained the 16-year-old outside Merthyr Tydfil Police Station on August 20 last year.

The incident was captured on a now-deleted YouTube video which was recorded by the youngster, who at the time claimed to be ‘auditing’ the station in South Wales.

The term “audit” refers to a global online community of people who record and upload videos of government buildings, such as police stations.

At a hearing at Newport Magistrates’ Court, Gittoes was given a 12-month community order to perform 200 hours of unpaid work in a year.

He was also ordered to pay costs totaling £1,275, including £250 compensation for the victim.

Sentencing him, District Judge Sophie Toms said: “You assaulted a vulnerable 16-year-old boy who was filming for his YouTube channel.

“There was no justification for approaching him the way you did, no justification for laying hands on him, and no justification for arresting him.

“It was a continuing unlawful assault.”

Judge Toms said the offense was aggravated by the fact that it was an abuse of power and that Gittoes had degraded the teenager by calling him a ‘smart little monster of the internet’.

“I do take into account the mitigation though which is that you were of good character and that was not in your character once,” she added.

Gittoes defense barrister Christopher Rees had appealed to the court for a community order and said: ‘The fact remains that the defendant, following his conviction, will lose his job as a police officer.

“Twenty-four years of public service. This is an important punishment in itself.

“It is a personal tragedy for Mr Gittoes, who loses not only his career but also his good character.”

During his trial, it was found that Gittoes, who was off duty at the time, did not honestly believe the teenager was committing a terrorism offence.

Gittoes is said to have “lost all rational thought” and allowed his judgment to be “clouded” by his dislike of listeners and his continued frustration with his bosses over the way a similar incident was handled.

Guidance issued by South Wales Police and seen by Gittoes, after similar incidents in the Force Zone, informed officers that members of the public have a general right to film government buildings on public property.

He also said that if someone identifies themselves as a listener, they should be ignored.

Footage released in court showed Gittoes, dressed in a Swansea City Football Club shirt and black shorts, confronting the teenager seconds before grabbing the boy’s phone, putting it in an arm lock and take him to the custody suite.

The youngster’s cries of pain and distress and “He’s choking me” can be heard as Gittoes twists the neck of his hoodie, while the officer tells him “Stop struggling”.

Inside the duty room, he says to the boy, “You’re a smart little internet junkie who’s about to learn the hard way.”

He confiscated the teenager’s phone which, unbeknownst to him, was still recording in his pocket.

His exchanges with colleagues can be heard in the videos, with Gittoes saying: “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 second chance.

“I have 36,000 people on the internet calling me shit.

“I thought ‘F*** him’ this time. I’ll do what I should have done last time.

He also spoke of having had a bad weekend before calling the youngster “a clown”.

Gittoes was found guilty of assault on October 5 when Judge Toms found, “No reasonable person in possession of the same facts would have suspected the youth of terrorism.”

Catrin Evans, director of the Independent Office for Police Conduct in Wales, said: “While there are occasions when the use of force is necessary, police officers only have the power to do so. only do so if it is necessary, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.”

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