Report clears police of baton beating

SAM BOYER
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2012
Jakob Christie
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
Jakob Christie had a vertebra in his neck fractured when police were called to a party in Khandallah in 2009.

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A Wellington father has accused police of "thumbing their noses at genuine concerns", after an internal investigation found officers were not to blame for breaking a teenager's neck with a baton.

Jakob Christie, then 19, was left with a broken neck after police evicted him from an out-of-control party in Homebush Rd, Khandallah, in September 2009.

He claims a police officer struck him in the neck with a baton as he left the party with his hands in the air. Two other partygoers said they saw a policeman beat him around the neck.

However, a police internal review - the results of which were released at 4.50pm yesterday - found no fault on the part of officers.

The release quoted Wellington district commander Superintendent Mike Rusbatch as saying that, after a "long and complex investigation", there was insufficient evidence to substantiate Mr Christie's complaint.

Wellington public relations consultant Iain Morrison, whose son was one of the party's hosts, criticised the findings and the "smart alec" timing of their release, late on the last Friday before the Christmas break.

"I'm not surprised. There's two things: the timing of it, everybody is closing down for Christmas; and the findings are what I expected.

"It's smart alec and it's thumbing their noses at genuine concerns.

"What have they got to hide if they're letting it out at this time of year?"

An Independent Police Conduct Authority investigation will now compare its own findings with the internal review to decide if it is fair.

Mr Morrison hopes the authority will report differently. "It's got a long way to go yet, I think. The whole police culture - somebody needs to take a good hard look at it."

Mr Christie was one of several young people who said they were struck with batons when a squad of 20 police officers closed down the party on September 4, 2009.

Eleven complaints were laid, but the review dismisses police culpability in each case, either because of insufficient evidence or because the force used was deemed "reasonable".

"A total of 10 other partygoers also made complaints of assault, excessive use of force, unlawful arrest and being treated in a demeaning manner," Mr Rusbatch said.

"Had there been sufficient evidence to substantiate any of the allegations made by the 11 complainants, the outcome would be different."

Mr Morrison said he believed the case deserved a full court inquiry, under IPCA chairman Sir David Carruthers.

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"This still has to go to the [authority] for them to compare the evidence that they've gathered with the police report.

"If the evidence they've gathered through their own independent investigations is at odds with the police findings . . . I'd like to see Judge Carruthers convene his court and subpoena those officers, put them under oath . . . and test the evidence."

Mr Christie could not be reached for comment last night.

- The Dominion Post

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