9 July 2013 - The Independent Police Conduct Authority today released its report into the death of Georgina Cherish Stone-Te Haara and the serious injuries of Mamaku Jacquetta Ngaheu, Shana Menary-Colley and Setefano Tonga following a Police pursuit in Auckland on 5 December 2010.
Ms Stone-Te Haara was one of three passengers in a stolen Holden Barina driven by Mr Tonga. Following a Police pursuit and after driving over road spikes Mr Tonga’s car crashed on Chapel Road in Flat Bush, Auckland. Ms Stone-Te Haara, aged 20, died in hospital from injuries she received in the crash. Mr Tonga and his two other passengers were seriously injured.
The Authority found that the actions of the fleeing driver, Mr Tonga, ultimately led to the death of Ms Stone-Te Haara. While officers failed to comply with Police policy in some areas, the Authority could not conclude that these failures and other actions contributed to Ms Stone-Te Haara’s death.
The Police pursuit had been abandoned at the time the road spikes were deployed and Police were not in pursuit of Mr Tonga when the car crash occurred.
The Authority has found that a new digital radio system introduced six days before the death of Ms Stone-Te Haara resulted in communication problems which affected nearly every aspect of this incident.
While officers generally complied with the fleeing driver policy in respect of the pursuit the Authority has found that the pursuit should have been abandoned earlier due to Mr Tonga’s sustained dangerous driving.
The Authority also found that officers failed to comply with some aspects of the policy governing the use of road spikes. There were also particular concerns around the locations chosen for the deployment of the spikes.
The fleeing driver, Mr Tonga pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Ms Stone-Te Haara and to other offences relating to the events of 5 December 2010, including driving with excess blood alcohol. He was sentenced to five years and four months’ imprisonment and disqualified from driving for seven years.
The Authority has noted, in this and other pursuit cases investigated by the Authority, that officers frequently breach Police policies and experience compliance difficulties due to conflict between the often prescriptive nature of the relevant polices and the reality of a fast paced, time-pressured pursuit.
As a result, the Authority has begun discussions with the Police about a review of policies connected with the pursuit of fleeing drivers, including those governing the use of road spikes.