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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Complaint that Police failed to respond to 111 calls before a man was charged with murder

10 February 2021

The Authority oversaw a Police review into a complaint that on 30 December 2019, Police failed to respond to 111 calls made by a man suffering a mental health episode in Christchurch, and a further call from his ex-partner requesting Police conduct a welfare check on him. The following day, a woman was found deceased in her car, and the man was charged with her murder.

In New Zealand, the main component of the emergency calling system is the Initial Call Answering Platform (ICAP) that answers all 111 calls. Spark New Zealand Ltd operates the ICAP so emergency calls are first answered at a Spark call centre. Genuine emergency calls are then forwarded to the appropriate Emergency Service Provider (Police, Fire, Ambulance).

The investigation found the man had called 111 on four occasions in the early hours of 30 December 2019. Of those calls, only one was received by Police. This was received at 1.33am at the Southern Police Communications Centre (SouthComms), when he spoke with a Police communicator for about five minutes. The details of the call were recorded on an event log, but no further action was deemed necessary. The other three calls were not received by Police. One consisted of 'button pushing' with no communication from the man that the ICAP operator terminated, and in the other two the man hung up before Police answered the transferred call from ICAP.

At 2.06am the man's ex-partner, who was concerned for his mental well-being, also called 111. She requested Police conduct a welfare check on the man at his Christchurch address. The Police Northern Communications Centre communicator entered a job for SouthComms to assign a unit to attend. However, in the hours that followed, the job was not dispatched due to workload and higher priority calls.

Later that day at 1.13pm, a nurse from a Christchurch hospital rang Police from outside the man's home and requested Police assistance under the Mental Health Act to take the man to hospital. However, shortly after that the nurse advised Police that mental health services were able to deal with him themselves and that Police were no longer required to attend.

The Authority found that the 111 call received by Police from the man was dealt with professionally and it was reasonable that no further action was taken at the time. In relation to the job that was entered following the call from the man's ex-partner, the Authority accepts that no patrol was dispatched because of workload at the time, including higher priority calls for service.

While some procedural shortcomings in the handling of the man's calls were identified, the Authority is satisfied that Police actions were appropriate, and they did not contribute to the homicide that occurred the following day. In the Authority's view, the intervention by health officials effectively negated any link between the calls and the woman's tragic death.

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