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Home / Outcomes / 2023 Summaries of Police Investigations

Man discharged from Christchurch custody unit without medical treatment for serious injuries

31 January 2023

The Authority oversaw a Police investigation into an incident where a man sustained serious injuries after his arrest. The injuries included a fracture to the man’s right upper arm and left collar bone, as well as bruises to his stomach, face, and forehead.

Police went to the man’s home after an argument between him and a friend. He took a small zip lock bag, containing cannabis, out if his pocket and swallowed it in front of the officers. The man tried to walk away and fell over a chair. An officer believed the man might have had more drugs inside his house and detained him. Police searched the man’s house without a search warrant but found no drugs. The man was given a warning for disorderly behaviour, possessing cannabis, and resisting Police.

Later that evening, Police were again called to the same address and spoke to the man outside his property. The man was intoxicated and upset with his neighbours, believing they had phoned Police about him earlier. The man became verbally abusive and threatened to assault the officer. The officer arrested the man for disorderly behaviour, but he ran back onto his property. The officer pursued him but as he got close to the man, he started to turn around. Believing he was about to be assaulted, the officer pushed the man in the back, and he fell to the ground, hitting his head against a tree stump. The officer struggled to handcuff the man and a bystander asked if he needed help. The officer accepted the help, and they eventually handcuffed the man. The man was taken to the Christchurch custody unit.

At the custody unit, the man said that his arm was sore, and he wanted to see a doctor. The custody staff did not believe the man had a serious injury as he moved his arms and told them that a different arm was sore each time they asked. The custody supervisor later asked him if he still wanted to see a doctor, but he declined. The man was released the following morning and went to the hospital where his injuries were diagnosed and treated.

The Police investigation found that when Police first attended, the man should not have been given a warning for disorderly behaviour as the incident took place on his private property. The warnings for the possession of the cannabis, or resisting Police, were also not appropriate as the man refused to sign these.

The investigation also found that the warrantless search of the man and his property was justified, however, the Authority disagrees the search of the house was justified.

The investigation could not determine where, or how, the man sustained the injuries he had. The officer that pushed the man did not intend for him to hit his head against the tree stump and we agree this was an unfortunate but unforeseen consequence. None of the witnesses identified any excessive use of force when the man was restrained.

The investigation found that the man should have seen a doctor when he was received into the custody unit. The arresting officer should have advised custody staff that the man had a head injury. Police have since changed the custody unit’s practices and medical assistance is now afforded, when requested.

The Authority considers Police have taken appropriate employment outcomes with all officers concerned.

IPCA: 22-10351

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