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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Police mishandled 111 call reporting concerns about a child's welfare

24 November 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has determined that Police did not handle a 111 call reporting concerns about a two-year-old girl's welfare in accordance with Police policy, Standard Operating Procedures and good practice. Police found the child dead the next day.

On 20 March 2019, Niki Sturgess called 111 to report that she and her husband wanted help getting their great-grandchild, Nevaeh, out of a house in Maketu. Nevaeh was at the house alone with her father, Aaron Izett, while her mother was in hospital. Among other things, Mrs Sturgess reported that Mr Izett was "off his brain" and had just attacked her and her husband.

The call taker advised Mrs Sturgess that Police did not have the power to intervene because she and her husband did not have custody of Nevaeh. Police did not send anyone to conduct a welfare check at the house that evening. After receiving further reports about Mr Izett's behaviour the next day, Police went to the address and found Nevaeh's deceased body weighed down by rocks in an estuary next to the house.

Police arrested Mr Izett shortly afterward, and later charged him with Nevaeh's murder and several other violent offences. In November 2020, a jury found Mr Izett guilty of Nevaeh's murder.

The Authority completed its investigation into this incident in April 2020, but delayed reporting until the conclusion of Mr Izett's trial.

The Authority found that:

  • the call taker coded the 111 call incorrectly, gave incorrect advice regarding Police powers and did not record vital information which may have affected the Police response to this incident;
  • the dispatcher on duty did not check the Police database for further information on Mr Izett; and
  • a second dispatcher later checked the database and verbally advised the first dispatcher of the relevant information, but did not copy significant information into the 111 event.

The Authority concluded that Police responded appropriately to the information the call taker had recorded about the incident. However, had the relevant information been recorded and properly coded, Police likely would have responded much earlier than they ultimately did.

  • "This is an extremely sad case. While Police processes were found wanting, due to uncertainty about the exact timing of Nevaeh's death, it is not possible to say whether Police would have prevented her being harmed if they had gone to check on her shortly after Mrs Sturgess' call" said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
  • Police advised the Authority that following this incident they held "professional conversations" with the staff involved and provided further risk assessment training.
Public Report

Police mishandled 111 call reporting concerns about a child's welfare (PDF 416 KB)
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