20 August 2013
The first of its kind to be publicly released by the current Chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, this report sets out the Authority’s independent review of the Police investigation into their actions during the arrest of Mr John Bennett in Christchurch in December 2011.
Under its mandate the Authority can either independently investigate complaints or, as is the case here, refer a complaint to Police for them to investigate. In such circumstances the Authority then independently reviews the Police Investigation.
In March 2012 the Authority received a complaint about the actions of Police during an incident at Mr Bennett’s home, which resulted in his arrest.
In the early hours of 16 December 2011 Mr Bennett was woken by the sound of an intruder on his Burwood property. Given a recent spate of burglaries and looting in the suburb, due to the area being largely deserted after Christchurch’s February 2011 earthquake, Mr Bennett went outside to investigate.
Around the same time Police were actively searching for an assailant who was tracked to Burwood. After going back inside to call the Police Mr Bennett heard further noises and went outside a second time, armed with an air pistol and tee-ball bat. He encountered a Police officer who had been called to assist in the apprehension of the assailant sought by Police.
After an exchange with the Police officer and following the arrival of other officers at the scene, Mr Bennett was arrested for unlawfully carrying a firearm and possession of an offensive weapon.
During the arrest Mr Bennett was made to lie face down while the arresting officer used his knee and foot on Mr Bennett’s back to keep him on the ground. Mr Bennett’s face was also pushed into the ground.
Mr Bennett was initially charged by Police however, these charges were later withdrawn.
The Police investigation concluded that the force used by the arresting officer was reasonable.
However, following its review of the Police investigation, the Authority determined that the force used was excessive, and that this force and Mr Bennett’s arrest were unjustified and unreasonable.
Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair Judge Sir David Carruthers said the arresting officer acted prematurely and without an adequate appreciation for the facts of the situation.
“As a result, the force used during Mr Bennett’s arrest was unnecessary and disproportionate to the circumstances,” he said.