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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Police failed in their duty of care to a detainee who attempted suicide

30 June 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police did not comply with policy and failed in their duty of care to a detainee who attempted suicide while in a Court cell. He lost consciousness and died several days later when his life support was turned off.

Mr X was taken into Police custody on 7 October 2017. On 11 October he was taken to Tauranga District Court for a hearing. At 12.35pm Mr X was found unconscious in a cell. He had attached a torn off part of a sleeve from his t-shirt to a raised plug in the basin unit in the cell and attempted to asphyxiate himself. Mr X had not been checked for more than 20 minutes before he was found.

Police policy requires items that a detainee could use to harm themselves to be removed. On 10 October both long sleeves of his t-shirt had been cut while he was being assessed at a medical centre. Mr X was wearing the cut t-shirt while in Police custody at the station and at the Court. "The cut sleeves of the t-shirt clearly had the potential to be used by Mr X to harm himself. … By leaving Mr X in the cut t-shirt, Police have failed to meet their duty to keep Mr X safe while in their care" said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

The Authority also found that the initial evaluation of Mr X was inadequate in a number of respects and handovers from outgoing custody staff to incoming staff were inconsistent. In addition, he was not checked as regularly as he should have been for the four days he was in Police custody.

Public Report
Death following attempted suicide in Tauranga District Court cell (PDF 636 KB)

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