25 May 2016
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police failed to follow policy and good practice when responding to a missing person notification in Hamilton regarding Nicholas Stevens, aged 21.
Nicholas Stevens suffered from schizophrenia and was admitted to the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre (HBC) on 19 February 2015 following a serious suicide attempt. He did not return from unescorted leave on 9 March 2015, and the HBC advised Police that he was missing about two hours later, at 2.38pm.
Police did not dispatch any officers to search for Nicholas Stevens or to gather further information from the HBC. Two days later, on the afternoon of 11 March 2015, Police commenced a Search and Rescue operation. A member of the public found Nicholas Stevens’ body in the Waikato River the next morning.
After receiving a complaint from Nicholas Stevens’ family, the Authority conducted an independent investigation and found serious deficiencies in respect of:
“There were a number of missed opportunities on 9 and 10 March 2015 for Police to reassess the risk posed to Nicholas Stevens and realise that further action was required. The lack of action and contact from Police caused Nicholas Stevens’ family great distress at a very difficult time” said Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers.
The Authority also determined that a Police media release relating to Nicholas Stevens on 11 March 2015 contained an inaccurate description of him due to a data entry problem.
The Authority recommended that Police:
Additionally, the Authority noted its support for the Police’s efforts to develop a national training package on mental health, and to ensure that Police database alerts for people missing from mental health providers are in place as soon as possible.
Note: The Authority’s report focuses solely on the actions of Police. The Authority has no jurisdiction to review or comment on the actions of staff employed by the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre (HBC)