High Court finds breach of Bill of Rights in police shooting
The High Court has awarded a man $20,000 in compensation after finding his right to be treated with humanity and respect was violated when he was accidentally shot dead by police.
Hastings man Iriheke Pere, then 33, was lying face down, obedient and subdued after his arrest, when he was shot in the back by a member of the police’s Armed Offenders Squad in August 2013.
His lawyer, Eric Forster, took the case to the High Court seeking compensation for a breach of the New Zealand Rights Act 1990.
Forster argued that the shooting violated Section 23(5) of the Bill of Rights, which states that “everyone deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person.”
High Court Judge Francis Cooke agreed a breach of the Bill of Rights had occurred, saying it did not matter that the shooting was accidental and not deliberate.
He said the officer who fired, known as Officer Z4, failed to observe minimum firearm safety standards.
The judge also said there were “systemic” failings in the conduct of the AOS at the time, as well as a general lack of standards, demonstrated by the fact that Agent Z4 and others had loaded the wrong type of bullets into their .223 M4 Bushmaster. guns.
Agent Z4’s rifle was loaded with practice rounds because, contrary to protocol, they had not been replaced with standard rounds after the last training exercise.
Training rounds are designed to disintegrate into tiny pieces on impact, to minimize damage to anything they hit.
“In this instance, that particular failure may have saved Mr Pere’s life,” Judge Cooke said.
The court heard that Officer Z4’s rifle, held in a sling, grazed his pistol holster, releasing the safety. As he moved forward to help lift Pere off the ground, a loop of his safety vest caught on the trigger and the rifle discharged.
Pere was taken to hospital with shrapnel from the disintegrated bullet in his back, chest and neck, and suffering from blood loss, a collapsed lung and blood vessel damage. He was hospitalized for a month.
The judge said Agent Z4 only received a conditional pass from an AOS screening course in 2010 and was supposed to have received additional one-on-one training, but that did not happen.
Judge Cooke said officer Z4 failed to meet minimum gun safety standards in at least two respects – by not discharging his gun or handing it to another officer before approaching Pere, and by not obeying the “cardinal rule” that a loaded gun should always be pointed away from people.
Forster had sought $250,000 in compensation for his client, based on penalties imposed under health and safety laws.
However, the judge agreed with Crown attorney Austin Powell that the Health and Safety Act did not apply, had a different legislative purpose and that penalties imposed under it did not apply. were not relevant.
The judge awarded $20,000 in compensation, based on amounts awarded in other human rights cases.
Constable Z4 was charged with reckless use of a firearm causing injury after the shooting, but was acquitted by a jury in Napier District Court in 2016.