25 September 2014 - An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today on the death of Judd Hall in a car crash in Greymouth in January 2014 found that the officer involved was justified in following the speeding car in a bid to get it to stop.
“Unfortunately the choices made by the driver of the car, Jordan McGrath, in which Mr Hall was one of two passengers subsequently ended in tragedy,” Judge Carruthers said.
Around 10:45pm on Friday 24 January 2014 a Greymouth Police officer saw a white Subaru travelling at speed along High Street. The officer decided to follow the car in an attempt to talk to the driver and he immediately activated his blue and red lights signalling the driver to stop.
Jordan McGrath who was carrying two passengers, Kori Jeffcoat and Judd Hall continued at speeds of around 100kph in a 50kph zone along High Street before he approached a left hand bend in the road by Greymouth hospital. On approaching the bend the officer, who was approximately 500 metres behind the Subaru saw the car’s tail lights move into the centre of the road before the left side of the car rose up as it took the left-hand turn. The officer then lost sight of the Subaru.
A few seconds later as the officer came around the bend he saw that the Subaru had crashed against a house. He immediately called emergency services and ran to assist the three men in the car.
Mr McGrath and Mr Jeffcoat received significant injuries and were taken to hospital. Mr Hall died at the scene.
The whole incident covered a distance of just one kilometre and lasted a short 33 seconds.
In conducting its investigation the Authority found that the officer was unable to catch up to the Subaru before the crash occurred. The Authority also found that the distance of approximately 500 metres in between the vehicles meant that officer was never in a position to be able to signal the driver to stop. The officer therefore was not engaged in a ‘pursuit’ as defined in Police policy.
“This was an accident caused by the actions of Mr McGrath, who was driving dangerously and in excess of the blood alcohol limit for a person of his age. Mr McGrath’s actions resulted in the tragic loss of life of one of his passengers.” Judge Carruthers said.
Following the accident Mr McGrath was charged with manslaughter, dangerous driving causing injury and driving with excess blood alcohol in the Greymouth High Court on 13 May 2014.
Mr McGrath pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of two years. He was also disqualified from driving for five years.