The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police should not have started pursuing a Mazda near Kaitaia in the early hours of 10 October 2020. The fleeing driver crashed the Mazda seconds after Police abandoned the pursuit. The fleeing driver and three passengers were injured, and one passenger died.
At 1.15am, Police signalled the driver of a Mazda to stop, suspecting they were intoxicated. The officers say they saw the Mazda exceeding the speed limit, and had earlier seen it and the registered owner at a nearby pub.
The Mazda initially continued slowly but the driver did not pull over. Police started to pursue, and the driver accelerated down Kaitaia's main street. Police followed at 115kph in a 50kph speed zone.
After turning off the main road the fleeing driver swerved to avoid road spikes and continued out of town on a rural road towards Ahipara. Police abandoned the pursuit just before the Mazda entered a series of bends and crashed into a power pole. The pursuit lasted approximately three minutes.
The Authority found that the immediate risks of pursuing the likely-intoxicated driver were greater than those created by allowing them to drive away in the circumstances.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty said: "The pursuing officer's risk assessment was flawed. He knew there were several people in the car whose safety was dependent on the fleeing driver's decision making and driving skill, which was probably already compromised. He did not give enough consideration to the additional pressure a pursuit would likely place on the fleeing driver, increasing the chances of unsafe driving. It was safer to let the vehicle go and make follow-up enquiries based on the Mazda's registration details."
Having started pursuing, there were several critical points at which Police should have abandoned the pursuit before finally doing so - in particular, when the pursuing officer had to travel at high speed along the main road to keep up with the Mazda.
The Authority also looked at a witness complaint that several Police cars were driving dangerously close to the fleeing Mazda just before it crashed but is satisfied this was not the case.