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Authority releases report into serious injury to Shane Legg while in Police custody

5 August 2013 

The Independent Police Conduct Authority today released its report into the serious injury of Shane Legg following his arrest in Northland on 19 April 2012.

Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair Judge Sir David Carruthers said the investigation found that while Police actions were reasonable and complied with the law in most respects, one officer failed to fulfil his duty of care to the person in his custody.

“That failure contributed to the injury that Mr Legg suffered,” Sir David said.

Earlier on the evening of 19 April 2012, while possibly driving under the influence of drugs at speeds of more than 50kph over the speed limit, Mr Legg fled Police when he was signalled to pull over. He drove dangerously in an attempt to evade Police and eventually stopped his car after meeting a dead-end in the road. Mr Legg then got out of the car and ran in the dark up a hill into an area of steep, slippery and hazardous land as he continued to evade Police.

After being tracked by a Police dog Mr Legg was located. He was handcuffed and escorted down the hill negotiating felled trees and other obstacles. At the bottom of the hill Mr Legg, who was still handcuffed behind his back, was told to put his foot on the top wire of a 1.08 metre-high fence and jump down to the other side. In his attempt to climb the fence Mr Legg fell. He was then moved approximately 30 to 40 metres by two officers and after complaining of a burning sensation in his back he was laid on the ground and an ambulance was called.  Mr Legg was taken to Whangarei Hospital and was found to have a serious spinal cord injury.

“In its investigation the Independent Police Conduct Authority found Police actions during the arrest of Mr Legg were reasonable and in compliance with all relevant Police policies. The Authority considered it appropriate for Mr Legg to be handcuffed upon arrest based on Mr Legg’s previous actions, the risk of Mr Legg escaping and the likely difficulty in apprehending Mr Legg again due to the extremely challenging terrain, if he did escape,” Sir David said.

“However, the Authority has found that while he did not intend to cause injury, the officer who instructed Mr Legg to jump over the fence failed in his duty of care because he did not consider possible risks and alternative courses of action.Although this was an error of judgement that proved to have serious consequences, the Authority has found that this officer’s actions were not so grossly negligent as to give rise to criminal liability.

“As to the actions of the two other officers investigated by the Authority, with the benefit of hindsight it would have been prudent for them to have exercised more caution and checked Mr Legg before moving him from the fence. However, the Authority concluded that on the information known to the officers at the time their actions cannot be regarded as unreasonable or a breach of their legal duty of care,” Sir David said.

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