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Auckland Police pursuit results in serious injury of innocent man

27 November 2014 - A report released today by the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found Police failed to comply with policy during a pursuit in Auckland in 2013 which left an innocent man with serious injuries.

Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said while the actions of the fleeing driver caused the serious injury of another motorist, the way in which Police used road spikes during the pursuit was haphazard and placed Police staff and other road users at risk of harm.

The incident occurred on 2 September 2013 after Police received multiple reports of an armed robbery at the Westpac Bank in Pukekohe. Two men, Michael Rai and Joshua Baker, were reported to have fled in a BMW. Police soon located the car but the driver, Mr Rai, failed to stop for them when signalled to do so.

A Police pursuit proceeded at high speed along State Highway 22 and the Southern Motorway during which time Police twice attempted to use road spikes to stop the BMW. Mr Rai avoided the road spikes in the first instance by driving on the wrong side of the road. He then drove between two lanes of oncoming traffic on several occasions and through two sets of red traffic lights before driving back towards the officers. The officer then decided to use the road spikes a second time but found them tangled from the first attempt. Despite this he threw the clump of spikes onto the road which Mr Rai easily avoided.

The pursuit continued north along the motorway, towards Papakura. Just past the Beach Road overbridge the BMW came up behind a silver ute being driven by Hugh Foster. By this time the BMW was travelling at such a speed, around 160kph, that Mr Rai was unable to avoid hitting Mr Foster. Both vehicles then rolled several times before coming to a stop. Police later found out the BMW had been stolen earlier that morning.

Mr Foster received serious injuries, including a broken neck, in the crash. Mr Rai was arrested and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for aggravated robbery, dangerous driving causing injury and failing to stop for Police. Mr Baker, who also sustained serious injuries, was arrested and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for aggravated robbery and unlawfully taking a motor vehicle.

“This accident was caused by the actions of Mr Rai which led to the serious injury to Mr Foster, an innocent man who was hit from behind by a speeding car. However, the Authority has found that Police failed to comply with Police policy with regards to commencement, communication, risk assessment and abandonment of the pursuit. Police also failed to comply with Police policy during the two attempts to lay the road spikes,” Sir David said.

In relation to this incident the Authority notes that Police are reviewing their Tyre Deflation Devices (TDDs) Policy and as part of that are considering how issues regarding communication in relation to the deployment of TDDs should be addressed. The Authority also notes its work with Police on the policies governing the pursuit of fleeing drivers. This work is well advanced.

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