8 April 2011 - Investigations into the deaths of three motorists involved in separate accidents with Police during 2010 have found Police largely complied with policy in two of the incidents, but not in the third.
One of the fatalities occurred during a Police pursuit, one occurred as Police were engaged in urgent duty driving, and one occurred as a Police officer conducted a u-turn.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has released the reports of its investigations into the following fatalities:
• The death of Leith David Barnes following a Police pursuit near Newlands and Johnsonville in Wellington on 13 January 2010. Mr Barnes lost control of his motorcycle at a corner and fell down a steep embankment as he was being pursued for exceeding the speed limit.
• The death of Michael Roden Plimmer on 2 February 2010 on Auckland’s North Shore. Mr Plimmer died after a multi-car accident involving a Police car that was responding to an urgent incident involving Cornelis Klein. Mr Klein’s vehicle rammed the Police car and then collided with Mr Plimmer’s vehicle. He has since been charged with manslaughter.
• The death of Paul Brown near Te Kauwhata in the Waikato on 18 April 2010. Mr Brown’s motorcycle collided with a Police car that was doing a u-turn just below the brow of a hill. The Police officer is now facing dangerous driving charges.
The Authority Chair, Justice Lowell Goddard, said the officers involved in Mr Plimmer’s accident were complying with policy and could not have anticipated Mr Klein’s response to their actions.
The Authority has found the officer who pursued Mr Barnes largely complied with policy, apart from failing to fully communicate risks that arose during the pursuit. The Authority has recommended Police continue with the implementation of hands-free communication technology in vehicles.
In the case of Paul Brown, the Authority has refrained from making any findings as to whether the officer’s actions were contrary to law, as the matter is subject to due process before the court. However the Authority has found that his decision to attempt a u-turn in that location was highly undesirable. It also found that he had not yet commenced a pursuit of a speeding vehicle when he attempted the u-turn.