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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Pursuit in Christchurch leading to fatality not justified

15 October 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police should not have conducted the pursuit that resulted in the death of Mr Kenneth McCaul in Christchurch on 22 October 2019.

Just before 4am on Tuesday 22 October 2019, a Police patrol was travelling along Main North Road in Christchurch and saw a Toyota Caldina stop at the intersection with Grassmere Street. The officers were suspicious of the Toyota, so began following it as it accelerated away and used an inside bus lane to pass a van. The driver of the Police car signalled the driver to stop by activating lights and siren and when the Toyota failed to stop, commenced a pursuit.

The pursuit lasted for about four and a half minutes and travelled approximately 7.7 kilometres in areas of the CBD and suburbs of Christchurch. The fleeing Toyota passed through eight controlled intersections on red lights and at speeds up to 137kph in a 50kph zone, and 100kph in a 30kph zone.

One officer attempted to spike the tyres of the fleeing Toyota relatively early in the pursuit but the spikes malfunctioned.

The pursuit ended when the fleeing driver drove through a red light at the intersection of Glandovey and Idris Roads and collided with another car, killing the driver and sole occupant of that car, Mr Kenneth McCaul.

The Authority found that not only should the officers not have commenced the pursuit, but that there were multiple occasions when the pursuit should have been abandoned. It also found that the pursuit controller in the Communications Centre did not formulate or communicate an adequate plan to bring the pursuit to an end.

The Authority believes that the circumstances of this pursuit highlight the assistance pursuit controllers would gain from the greater use of technology to give access to accurate and comprehensive "real time" location and speed data. A recommendation to assess such technology is contained in the joint report by Police and the Authority, 'Fleeing Drivers in New Zealand: a collaborative review of events, practices and procedures', which was published in March 2019.

Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said "in the circumstances, the risk to the public of Police pursuing the Toyota at speed and through multiple red lights was without question greater than the risk of letting it go and making inquiries later to locate the registered owner or driver. This risk was ultimately borne out by the tragic death of Mr McCaul, an innocent member of the public on his way to work."

Public Report

Pursuit in Christchurch leading to a fatality not justified (PDF 637 KB)
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