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Two Dunedin police officers have been given sentences of community work, reparation and, in one case, community detention, for using excessive force on an offender.
As police officers, Brenton David Rooney (33) and Duncan Roy Hollebon (37), were sworn to uphold the law, Judge Paul Kellar said when sentencing the pair today.
What Rooney and Hollebon did when they intervened during an arrest by two junior constables was an abuse of authority. It involved the illegitimate use of force on a suspect and undermined public expectations of the police.
Rooney was sentenced to two months' community detention, with a daily 7pm to 7am curfew and 100 hours' community work for intentionally injuring Daniel Murray Wiel on February 16 last year.
Hollebon was sentenced to 160 hours' community work for assaulting Mr Wiel with intent to injure him.and both men are to pay $500 reparation to Mr Wiel.
The two were found guilty by a jury in the Dunedin District Court early last month on the charges which arose from an incident early on February 15 last year. Police had pursued Mr Wiel who was seen riding a motorcycle without lights and without a helmet around city streets. Rooney was the acting sergeant and Hollebon was on patrol when they arrived at where two junior constables had Mr Wiel on the ground. Mr Wiel's hands were under his body and it was ''fair to say he was putting up some resistance'' and was ''disinclined'' to make his hands ''available to be handcuffed'', Judge Kellar said.
Hollebon walked over to where Mr Wiel was being restrained and kicked him in the rib and shoulder area. Then Rooney arrived, walked up to the group and deliberately kicked Mr Wiel forcefully in the head and face area. In each case the junior officers saw the kicks as being forceful. .
Hollebon walked away but returned and was seen to kick Mr Wiel again in the shoulder or rib area.
Mr Wiel received minor to moderate injuries, the most serious being to an area around his eye socket.
The behaviour of Rooney and Hollebon 'strikes at the very heart of our legal system'', Judge Kellar said. It was imperative the public could have faith in its police force, he told the pair.
Crown counsel Mary-Jane Thomas of Invercargill asked for prison sentenmces starting at two years for Rooney and 15 months for Hollebon. But the judge said he was confident a combination of sentences short of imprisonment would meet the sentencing principles and be appropriate in the circumstances.
He was aware of the devastating consequences for both men of the convictions and that both had now lost what had been distingusished and relatively long careers with the police.