Victorian police officers Florian Hilgart and Brad McLeod arrive at the Heidelberg Magistrates' Court in March last year. They were found guilty of assault and are appealing in the County Court. Picture: AAP Image/David Crosling
Victorian police officers Florian Hilgart and Brad McLeod arrive at the Heidelberg Magistrates' Court in March last year. They were found guilty of assault and are appealing in the County Court. Picture: AAP Image/David Crosling

Cops fight bashing guilty verdicts

Two police officers found guilty of assaulting a disabled man withdrawing from pain medication maintain their actions were "lawful".

Senior Constables Florian Hilgart and Brad McLeod have brought an appeal in the County Court of Victoria.

They were each fined without a conviction recorded in Heidelberg Magistrates' Court in July, with McLeod ordered to pay $3500 and Hilgart ordered to pay $1000.

They were also ordered to be of good behaviour for 12 months.

The two police officers were charged after CCTV footage showed them pulling a man to the ground, punching him, spraying him in the face with capsicum spray at close range, and filming themselves spraying him with a garden hose.

Victoria Police Senior Constable Brad McLeod was found guilty of three counts of assault in July. Picture: James Ross/AAP
Victoria Police Senior Constable Brad McLeod was found guilty of three counts of assault in July. Picture: James Ross/AAP

The incident happened on September 19, 2017.

The court heard on Monday the man's psychologist had called triple-0 for an ambulance, warning he was "distressed" and needed to be treated with "kid gloves".

She told the operator he was "vomiting blood" and in "extreme pain" as he withdrew from opioid pain medication.

The psychologist said he had threatened he would provoke police into shooting him if they were called.

"He's got no faith in the system," she said in the recorded call.

Six officers attended the home, where they were seen on video repeatedly telling the then-36-year-old man to come out.

He yelled at them to leave him alone.

The magistrates court previously heard the man then "charged" out of the house swinging at the nearest police officer, and was brought to the ground by six.

Hilgart's lawyer told the court on Monday he was "acting in lawful execution of duty" when he sprayed the man with a garden hose three times to the face while McLeod filmed.

"The case against Mr Hilgart turns on the question of whether the application of force is without lawful excuse," he said.

Victoria Police Senior Constable Florian Hilgart was found guilty of assault in the Heidelberg Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Currie
Victoria Police Senior Constable Florian Hilgart was found guilty of assault in the Heidelberg Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Currie

McLeod was convicted of three counts of assault for punching the man in the stomach while calling him a "f***ing idiot", spraying him in the face with capsicum spray, and filming Hilgart spraying with him the hose while appearing to laugh.

"You like that? You like that? Smells good, doesn't it?" McLeod was heard saying while spraying the man with capsicum spray.

His lawyer, Rahmin de Krester, said his actions were "reasonable and proportionate".

"He had lawful justification for carrying out those actions," he said.

"He relies on the defence of self-defence, defence of another and executing a lawful arrest."

A third police officer, John Edney, was found guilty of two counts of assault after hitting the man six times in the leg with a baton and putting his foot on the man's head.

Edney did not have a conviction recorded, was fined $1000 and ordered to be of good behaviour. He has not appealed.

The appeal continues on Tuesday.

Originally published as Cops fight bashing guilty verdicts


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