A policeman who was accused of punching a teenage boy in the face and then deleting mobile footage of the incident has been found guilty of assault and perverting the course of justice.
A County Court jury found Senior Constable Simon Mareangareu guilty of two charges stemming from the arrest of two teenagers, Kyan Foster and Stuart Laird, in the early hours of Christmas Day 2014 in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.
Mareangareu was found not guilty of six other charges, including the allegation of deleting the video footage and all allegations of perjury.
His partner Leading Senior Constable Dennis Gundrill was also charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, among other offences. Mr Gundrill was found not guilty on all charges.
Following the verdict, Fairfax Media can reveal that Mr Gundrill was sacked by Victoria Police last year over inappropriate conduct that was not related to the trial.
Mareangareu was accused of punching then-16-year-old Kyan Foster.
The two teenagers were charged with assaulting police, resisting arrest and possession of about one gram of marijuana.
Without footage of the attack, Mr Stuart Laird, now 20, and Mr Foster, now 19, may have been convicted.
However, Mr Laird’s father paid an IT expert to retrieve the deleted data, which revealed Mareangareu had punched Mr Foster in the face, leaving him with a bloodied nose.
The jury rejected evidence from Mareangareu that he had retaliated against Mr Foster, when the teenager struck his arm.
“He hits, I react. The training instantly kicks in. Create distance. Push, punch, kick, do anything. Create distance.
“I punched him as hard as I could to the face,” Mareangareu testified from the witness box.
Mareangareu compiled a brief of evidence against the boys, the court heard, and in May 2015 encouraged Mr Foster’s mother to get her son to go to court and do a deal with the prosecutor.
But the charges were dropped in August 2015, when police were handed the mobile phone footage and an internal investigation was launched.
Victoria Police declined to comment on the conviction of Mareangareu, due to the potential of an appeal.
Mareangareu was granted bail on Thursday to face court on July 31 for a plea hearing.
His conviction is expected to reignite debate about the the practice of police investigating their own colleagues.
It also raises more concerns about the conduct of former Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin, who was head of the force’s Professional Standards Command until he was forced to resign in February 2018.
In June 2016, The Age revealed Mr Guerin had decided not to charge the officers with perverting the course of justice or perjury, despite the findings of an internal police investigation.
They were later charged following a review by the Office of Public Prosecutions, which overruled Mr Guerin’s decision.
It is understood at least three senior officers involved in the internal investigation supported a move to lay the more serious charges of perjury or attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Mr Guerin resigned from the force when he was exposed as the author of racist and obscene online posts made under the pseudonym Vernon Demerest.
His conduct is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the state’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.