07 September 2011 - Investigations of fatal pursuits in Blenheim and Onehunga that resulted in the deaths of three people have found the Police officers complied with policy and acted lawfully in both cases.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has released the reports of its investigations into a pursuit in Onehunga on 17 September 2010, and a pursuit in Blenheim on 19 March 2010.
In the Onehunga incident, 20 year old passengers Jaycheree Makakea and Joseph Tawhai died at the scene after a Honda Integra driven by another 20 year old, Aaron Tulafono, crashed into power poles following a short Police pursuit that lasted 1 minute 35 seconds and covered 2.1 km.
Police had tried to stop the vehicle to speak to its occupants about reports of a laser being directed at motorists from an over-bridge. The driver ignored the patrol car’s warning lights and sped off. It has not been established that the vehicle’s occupants were involved in the laser incident. Nevertheless the Authority has found the Police officers were justified in commencing the pursuit and conducted it in accordance with policy.
In Blenheim, 51 year old Penelope Rae Phillips died at the scene after her vehicle was struck on the driver’s side by a Toyota Corolla driven by 20 year old Frances Carol Stubbs, who was fleeing a Police checkpoint. The pursuit had lasted approximately 15 seconds over a distance of about 400 metres.
The families of both women have questioned why Police did not remove the keys from the ignition of Ms Stubbs car when she was initially stopped at the checkpoint. However the Authority has found the officer did not have lawful authority at that stage to take control of her vehicle.
The Authority has found the Police officer complied with law and policy, as far as he was able, during the short pursuit.
The drivers of both pursued vehicles subsequently pleaded guilty to their respective driving charges. The Authority has found neither pursuit gives cause for recommendations to the Commissioner of Police regarding the officers involved.