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Spratt Taser police fined
Aaron Strahan and Troy Tomlin leave court during the case. Picture: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian

Update: The WA Police Union has hit out at assault convictions and sentences handed to two officers who tasered Kevin Spratt at the Perth Watch House in 2008.

The union has released a statement expressing “its absolute shock and disappointment” at the result and claiming Aaron Grant Strahan and Troy Gregory Tomlin were wrongly convicted and given manifestly unjust sentences.

Magistrate Richard Bromfield found the pair guilty of three unlawful assault charges each, fined them about $3500 and sentenced them to eight months’ prison suspended for six months.

The union statement said the officers would consider whether to appeal their sentences and/or convictions.

WAPU president George Tilbury said the court outcome would strike fear into the minds of every police officer carrying a Taser.

“Tasers were brought in to provide another less than lethal force option and prevent injury to police officers and others,” he said.

“This incident is a case in point, as no one was injured. However, officers are now faced with the prospect of criminal convictions clouding their decision if they use their Taser.”

In a decision handed down yesterday, Magistrate Richard Bromfield upheld three charges against Strahan and three against Tomlin.

A fourth charge against Strahan was dismissed.

Today Mr Bromfied imposed an eight-month jail terms on each man but suspended the sentences.

He fined Tomlin $3800 and Strahan $3250.

In his decision, Mr Bromfield said it was appropriate that the prison terms be suspended given that neither man was at risk of re-offending.

Mr Bromfield said the court had the advantage of viewing CCTV footage of the incident.

"No reasonable person could view that footage without being disturbed by the images contained therein," he said.

He specifically addressed a claim during the trial by lawyer Karen Vernon that it was an inference to conclude Mr Spratt had expressed pain rather than joy or laughter.

"I suggest respectively that to describe them as cries of joy is fanciful," he said. "(Mr Spratt) loudly and protractedly cries out in anguish."

Mr Bromfield acknowledged that police often had to deal with non-compliant suspects affected by alcohol and Mr Spratt "clearly falls within that category of defiance".

"Significantly, none of the images show Mr Spratt acting in that manner during the period in which the unlawful assaults were conducted upon him," Mr Bromfield said, adding that Mr Spratt's struggles during the fracas were an understandable reaction to being tasered.

Mr Bromfield said Strahan and Tomlin had no prior convictions, were of "exemplary character" and each had devoted a large part of their adult life to being a sworn police officer.

They had also been fined by WA Police after internal proceedings and the events had had harmed their careers.

He described their offences as resulting from "a gross error of judgment" rather than malice but said they had a duty of care to Mr Spratt, who was in their custody.

Tomlin was fined $1800 for the first assault and $1000 for the remaining two, while Strahan was fined $1250 for his first count and $1000 for the remaining two.

They were sentenced to suspended jail terms of eight months for each offence, to be served concurrently.

Their eight-month jail terms, suspended for six months, mean that if they commit another offence in the next half a year, today's jail term can be added to that sentence.

Outside court, Mr Spratt thanked the media for covering the case.

"I really appreciate what you've done, getting it out to Australia and the world," he said. "From the bottom of my heart - thank you."

Yesterday, describing the fracas in the watch house after Mr Spratt had earlier been arrested in Bayswater, Mr Bromfield ruled the officers’ response was an unjustified use of force on Mr Spratt.

Mr Bromfield said the use of the Taser under the circumstances was an unnecessary use of force and did not amount to self-defence.

Mr Spratt will use the assault convictions to bolster his claim for compensation.

Mr Spratt's lawyer Mal Cooke said yesterday that he would apply for the compensation with the State Government soon.

"If that application is not successful, Mr Spratt will consider commencing civil proceedings against the two police officers and possibly others," he said.