On 6 July 2017, the Independent Police Conduct Authority published a report on its independent investigation into Police’s fatal shooting of Shargin Stephens, which occurred on 14 July 2016 in Rotorua. The investigation found that a Police officer was legally justified in fatally shooting Shargin Stephens after Mr Stephens threatened Police and members of the public with a long-handled slasher.
In June 2021, the Authority started a review of its investigation after issues were raised in the media and by representatives of Mr Stephens’ family. The review findings have been incorporated into a new report containing our full analysis and findings, some of which are new or different from the original 2017 report.
The main finding is unchanged, namely that the Police officer was justified in shooting at Mr Stephens in defence of himself and members of the public.
Mr Stephens’ family and media alleged that camera footage of an officer’s Taser had been manipulated by Police to remove a vital section covering the shooting. We are satisfied there is no missing footage. There are seven seconds which are not captured on the Taser camera, most likely due to a common technical fault in the apparatus.
At the time of this incident, Mr Stephens was on electronically monitored bail at his home. Police still regularly checked him for other bail conditions, namely not to consume alcohol or drugs. Police records show Mr Stephens was checked 70 times over 38 days, often on multiple occasions each day and overnight. There are no records of Mr Stephens breaching his bail conditions. Mr Stephens’ family complained about the frequency of the bail checks.
Our review has found that the number and frequency of bail checks was excessive and unreasonable in the circumstances. There was no reason for Police to check Mr Stephens at his house as he was being electronically monitored, and there was no evidence he was breaching his bail conditions.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty says: “At the time of this incident there were no guidelines or expectations in Police policy or practice setting out the expected or reasonable frequency of bail checks. Crucially there was (and still is) no oversight or supervision of the frequency or reasonableness of bail checking.
The unreasonable and oppressive frequency of bail checking may have contributed to Mr Stephens’ views of Police and the actions he took on 14 July 2016. However, the fact that unreasonable Police prior actions probably contributed to events does not justify Mr Stephens’ specific actions at the time.”
The Authority has recommended that Police undertake a fundamental review of all aspects of bail checking, making specific provisions for:
• Clear ownership of bail policy, practice, and procedure within Police, both at District and National levels, including development of a deployment model for bail checking.
• Guidance to officers of what constitutes reasonable bail checks (in terms of content, timing, and frequency).
• An appropriate mechanism for oversight of bail checks being undertaken at a frontline, district, and national level.
• Clarity of purpose of Police bail checks when a person is on electronically monitored bail.
• Criteria set out for how offenders are prioritised for checking.