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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Complaint after man struck in the face during arrest in Gisborne

31 January 2019


The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that the force used against a man who was arrested in Gisborne on 2 January 2018 was lawful but poorly executed. The Authority investigated the incident after the man complained to Police, having sustained a fractured nose and eye socket.

The incident occurred when three Police officers went to an address to arrest a man for breaching a protection order.

The man's original complaint to Police stated that he was arrested by five Police officers, and one of them beat him in the back of a Police car. However, he later told the Authority that while he could remember being handcuffed inside his house; he could not recall anything further until waking up in the back of the Police car with a bleeding nose. This, in conjunction with what he had been told by his neighbours, caused him to believe that Police had assaulted him in his house.

The officers said that they arrested and handcuffed the man inside his house without incident, and then escorted him to the Police car. However, the man became aggressive when an officer asked him to get into the rear passenger seat. The officer feared he was about to be assaulted and aimed a knee strike at the man's thigh to prevent this. At the critical moment, the man bent down and the officer's knee connected with the man's face instead of his thigh. The man was taken back to the Police station, where he was seen by a doctor and put into a monitored cell overnight.

Based on all accounts, the Authority found it was probable that the man's injuries occurred where and how the officers said, and that the strike to the man's head was accidental.

The Authority found that a knee strike to the man's thigh was a practical and proportionate response to the perceived threat of assault, and overall the officer's actions were reasonable but with an unfortunate result.

Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty said: "I am satisfied that the force used in this situation was lawful and proportionate in the circumstances. However, it remains a fact that the arrested man suffered a significant facial injury, as the result of a poorly executed knee strike. While accidental, this outcome was undesirable and unfortunate."

The Authority also considered the medical attention that the man received, and found that it was appropriate.

Public Report
Police use of force during arrest in Gisborne (PDF 493 KB)
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