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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Loss of consciousness in Christchurch custody suite

26 November 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police officers used reasonable force to restrain a man remanded in custody in the Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct Custody Suite. While being restrained, the man lost consciousness.

The man was taken into custody on 24 November 2019, to appear in Court the following day. He had a history of mental illness, substance abuse, violence, and attempts to self-harm.

The man defecated on his cell bed and attempted to eat a food container and plastic utensils. His cell remained unclean for several hours. The Authority found the officers should not have left the man in soiled clothing and an unclean cell and should have removed the eating utensils from the cell.

The next morning, the man assaulted an officer. Later that afternoon, when being taken out of his cell to be transported to prison, officers used a shield to restrain him, took him to the ground, and placed a waist restraint on him.

While restrained on the ground, the man lost consciousness and was subsequently taken to hospital. It has not been determined what caused the man to lose consciousness.

"Having interviewed witnesses and reviewed the footage of the man being restrained on the ground, the officers' use of force was reasonable under the circumstances. There is no obvious indication any officer restrained Mr X in a way which would cause him to struggle to breathe," said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

The Authority found the use of the shield was reasonable, but the restraint procedure was poorly executed.

While officers provided timely and appropriate medical care, they should have made more of an effort to uphold the man's dignity when his gown was cut off him.

The Police and Corrections officers working within the custody suite were unsure exactly who was in charge of extracting the man from his cell. The Authority has recommended Police, Corrections and the Ministry of Justice collaborate to clarify at which point each agency is responsible for remand prisoners in the custody suite.

Public Report

Loss of consciousness in Christchurch custody suite (PDF 566 KB)
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