The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that several Police officers failed in their duty of care towards Anthony McGuire, who hanged himself in Police custody in Rotorua on 26 May 2008.
Mr McGuire had been arrested while intoxicated, and charged with assaulting his former partner and driving with excess breath alcohol. He was not searched before being placed in custody in the former Rotorua Police cells at 5.28pm. He removed the laces from his shoes to make a ligature, and at 8.56pm, another prisoner noticed Mr McGuire was hanging from his cell door.
An investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority has made a number of findings and conclusions in respect of Mr McGuire’s death.
It has found:
• the arresting officer and two custody officers failed to comply with policy and standard operating procedures in respect of searching people in custody;
• Mr McGuire was not managed correctly by the Police following his arrest and detention. There were significant breaches of Police policy by the officers involved;
• the Police officers did not comply with policy in relation to the mandatory inspection requirements;
• supervision of the custody officers was inadequate;
• the Rotorua watchhouse and custody areas were not appropriately staffed and supervised; and
• the Police officers had made a reasonable attempt to contact a lawyer for Mr McGuire on his arrival, and the medical assistance provided by the officers was immediate and appropriate, albeit too late.
The Authority report said Police had a duty of care in respect of Mr McGuire which was not fulfilled.
“Had Mr McGuire been searched, assessed for risk, and monitored in accordance with policy, he would not have had the opportunity to commit suicide in the manner that he did. The omissions by several officers to perform their duties in accordance with Police policies, practices and procedures were unjustified and undesirable,” the Authority Chair, Justice Lowell Goddard said.
“In addition, the environment in which officers were working at the time of Mr McGuire’s death, in particular the lack of adequate supervision of custody officers, contributed to a situation in which Mr McGuire was able to commit suicide.”
However the Authority also noted that a new Police custody facility has since opened at Rotorua and the level of supervision has been improved.
“Policies, practices and procedures in place at the time were sufficient, had they been followed, to have prevented Mr McGuire’s death. The Authority recognises that Police have taken disciplinary action against the officers, and also sought independent legal advice as to whether there was any criminal liability on the part of the officers involved.”
On the basis of the Police response to Mr McGuire’s death, the Authority makes no further recommendations.