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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Force used on man to prevent self-harm in custody

5 August 2020

The Authority oversaw a Police investigation into an incident at the Levin Police Station in December 2019 where force was used to prevent a man self-harming while in Police custody.

The man was in custody awaiting a court appearance the next day when he tried to restrict his breathing by putting his boxer shorts over his head and attempting to tighten them around his neck. This was observed by the custody officer who called for assistance before entering the cell to remove the shorts and prevent the man from hurting himself.

The man did not respond to the officer's initial attempts to remove the shorts, so the officer used pepper spray and kicks to the man's legs and body that resulted in the man removing the shorts himself. He was medically examined and not harmed by his actions, or the actions of the officer.

The Police investigation found the use of force was justified under the circumstances. The investigation also identified some shortcomings in how the man was evaluated before being placed into custody. Police has taken action to address these.

The Authority completed an independent review of the Police investigation and agrees with the findings about the use of pepper spray and kicks to the man's legs. In relation to the subsequent kicks to the man's body, the Authority did not consider these ideal, but accepted they were for the purpose of preventing self-harm and therefore reasonable under the circumstances.

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