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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Death in Police custody investigated

29 March 2021

The Authority oversaw a Police investigation following notification that a man had died whilst in Police custody in the Waikato Police District.

A man, who had been arrested in a rural area, was initially taken to the local Police station to be processed before being transferred to the custody unit at Hamilton Police station. The arresting officers took the man back to his home so he could collect his medication. Once inside the property the man picked up a kitchen knife and used this to injure himself. Serious injuries were inflicted before the Police officer could intervene to prevent further injury. The officers administered first aid and immediately called for an ambulance. However, the man died at the scene.

The Police conducted a Critical Incident investigation and completed a separate Policy, Practice and Procedure review. The investigation found that the injuries were self-inflicted. The investigation and review also assessed whether Police had fulfilled their legal duty of care towards the detainee, including to prevent injury.

The investigation found that there were no breaches in Police policy and the arresting officers had followed correct procedures when they arrested and processed the man. A formal evaluation was completed at the Police station which included asking about his health and mental wellbeing. The evaluation did not give the officers any reasons to believe that the man might harm himself.

The investigation also found that the officer who processed the man had established a good rapport. Having taken into consideration his behaviour, the officer decided to return to the man's home address to collect medication and clothing.

The review made several recommendations to improve processes and provide additional safeguards to prevent similar situations arising in the future.

The Authority has reviewed the Police investigation and agrees with the conclusions reached. We are satisfied that the officers fulfilled their responsibilities towards the man whilst he was in Police custody.

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