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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Man pepper-sprayed in Balclutha

24 March 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer was unjustified in using pepper spray on a man who he believed had failed to stop driving when signalled to do so.

At about 11.30pm on 17 November 2017, after he had finished work, the man was driving his ute on a rural road, intending to feed his horses. The officer patrolling the area believed the man behaved suspiciously when he stopped then accelerated when he saw the patrol car. The officer turned on his lights and siren and followed the man. The man stopped about 400 metres down the road and got out to open the gate to the horse paddock. The man asked the officer to follow him through the gate where they could talk, then got back in his ute.

The officer reached into the ute and turned off the key. After the man swore at him and got out of the ute, the officer pepper-sprayed him. The officer then arrested the man for failing to stop and for obstruction.

The Authority found that, although the arrest for failing to stop was lawful, it was unnecessary and unreasonable in the circumstances. The Authority accepted that the officer pepper-sprayed the man because he genuinely believed the man posed a risk and was fearful for his safety, but considered that the officer overreacted to the situation, as the man was not carrying a weapon and was standing a few metres away from him.

"The officer seems to have a heightened expectation that he was dealing with someone who would be assaultive. There were more reasonable tactical options he could have used," said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

The Authority also found that Police had no grounds to detain the man overnight, and it was unreasonable to suggest a bail condition be imposed, forbidding the man to drive.

Public Report

Man pepper-sprayed in Balclutha (PDF 600 KB)

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