A police officer who beat up a refugee and smashed his telephone has been sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence and fined €1,600 by a court in Brussels.
The incident happened in April on the Place Anneessens on the central North-South boulevard in the Brussels city centre. The man, a refugee from Sudan, was walking towards one of the city’s hostels for asylum seekers when a police van pulled up.
One of the officers got out and accosted the man, hitting him several times and smashing his phone with his truncheon.
The man was then bundled into the back of the police van, which drove off.
A short time later he was found in tears in a doorway by a local social worker who had witnessed the initial incident. He had been beaten further and sprayed with pepper spray. He was taken to hospital for treatment, and later filed an official complaint.
The officer has not been named other than as T.B.. At trial, his lawyer said he recognised that what he had done is wrong, but offered the mitigating circumstance that he had eight years of service and a clean record. Furthermore, the working conditions during a coronavirus epidemic were a cause of stress, lawyer Sven Mary said.
The defence argued for a guilty verdict without sentence, one of the options available to courts in Belgium. The defendant is found to have committed an offence, but the court finds that a punishment would not serve the ends of justice.
The possibility exists, but it is highly unlikely to be agreed by a court in a case involving actual bodily harm.
The court took the opposite view, describing the offence as “absolutely unacceptable”. Not only had T.B. used gratuitous violence on his victim, he had tried later to cover up his offence. The court also pointed out that far from having a clean record in the police service, he had on several occasions been subject to disciplinary proceedings for the use of excessive force.
He was fined €1,600 and given a one-year prison sentence. He will not be imprisoned in fact unless he is at some later point found guilty of another offence, when the one year will be added to whatever sentence he receives on that future occasion.
The Brussels Times