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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Offender who attacked cellmate inadequately assessed by Police custody staff

22 May 2018

On 8 October 2017 two men were placed in a cell in the Counties Manukau District Custody Unit. When one of the men was asleep, the other woke him by pouring urine and water on him. He then punched, kicked and stamped on his cellmate repeatedly. The offender was arrested and charged by Police.

Police conducted an investigation which was reviewed by the IPCA at its conclusion. The IPCA provided guidance to the Police on specific aspects it wished to see included in the Police investigation.

Police identified the Custody Officer who had evaluated the offender when he was brought into custody and had assessed as being suitable for placing in a Police cell with another person.

The Police investigation concluded that the Custody Officer’s assessment did not give sufficient consideration to a ‘high risk’ alert about the offender in the Police database. The alert indicated the offender had previously been aggressive and violent towards Police.

The database also showed that the offender had previously been diagnosed with a bi-polar type disorder and had said that he would “do anything to remain in custody”. The Custody Officer had seen this but thought the offender would only pose a threat to Police, not to others in custody.

The Police investigation included a random audit of five custody evaluations undertaken by the Custody Officer. The Police concluded that the results of the audit were satisfactory.

The Custody Officer in question has been spoken to about the standards required when assessing people being held in Police custody. Police have used this incident as a training example for all Counties Manukau custody staff. The IPCA considers this an appropriate response.


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