The Independent Police Conduct Authority investigated a complaint that a man was punched in the face while handcuffed in Taranaki on 7 December 2019.
The incident took place when an officer went to an address and arrested a man in relation to an incident at a neighbouring address earlier that day. The complaint alleged the man was punched in the face several times while handcuffed.
The Authority found that the officer did punch the man twice while struggling with him on the ground and attempting to handcuff him. The first punch was to the man's abdomen, the second was to his face before pushing the man's head against the ground.
The Authority accepts the first punch to the abdomen was reasonable in order to distract the man when resisting arrest. In relation to the punch to the man's face, the Authority accepted the officer's explanation that he was acting in self-defence as he believed the man was about to spit at him. However, the Authority considered the officer could have prevented the man from spitting without punching him and the punch was therefore unreasonable.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty said the officer was entitled to defend himself from being spat on. "The manoeuvre to hold the man's head against the ground was reasonable but there was no need to precede that move with a punch to his face".