Taser use in Shoal Bay brawl was referred to Police Integrity Commission

Newcastle courthouse.
Newcastle courthouse.

Four men – once accused of seriously assaulting two police officers during a wild melee at Shoal Bay in 2014 – have pleaded guilty to lesser charges after the matter was the subject of a complaint to the Police Integrity Commission. 

Alan Mark Chegwidden, Sean Paul Barnard, Matthew Terrance Connell and Jess Aaron Keatinge appeared in Newcastle District Court on Tuesday where they each pleaded guilty to a charge of affray, after a number of offences, including causing grievous bodily harm to an officer on duty, were withdrawn by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Keith Alder.

The pleas bring to a close a more than 2 ½ year saga in the criminal courts, that included a stay of the proceedings in May last year after lawyers for the four men referred the matter to PIC citing “overt and flagrant breaches of police protocol” concerning the use of tasers. 

The whole thing started with a man in a red shirt damaging a Honda Civic in Shoal Bay Road about 1.25am on November 16, 2014. 

A few minutes later, the four men – walking home from a night out drinking at the Shoal Bay Country Club – were stopped by a police car in Harwood Avenue. 

The two male police officers picked out Chegwidden, the only one wearing a red shirt, and sat him down. 

When Chegwidden got up, he was pushed to the ground by a police officer, who fell on top of him, prompting an angry response from the group of young men who thought police were being heavy handed. 

Punches were thrown and a police officer fired a taser at Chegwidden, only for the barbs to hit another member of the group not involved in the struggle. 

One officer suffered a laceration to the left side of his nose, while the other suffered cuts to his lip and cuts and bruises to his right eye. 

On Tuesday, the four men were each convicted and placed on a two-year good behaviour bond. 

The group faced the maximum of 14 years in jail on the charge of causing grievous bodily harm to an officer on duty.

Barnard, who is represented by barrister Mark Preece and solicitor Chris O’Brien, remains in custody after he was charged with glassing a man at a Nelson Bay pub in April.

He pleaded guilty to reckless wounding in Newcastle Local Court last week. 

That matter was adjourned to Newcastle District Court on Friday when Barnard could be sentenced.