Police fail at map reading

AMY MAAS
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2013

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Police are blaming "human error" for searching and damaging the wrong house during the hunt for a man who brutally bashed an officer.

Auckland police meant to search a house on Wymondley Rd, Otara, but instead ended up at a house on Clarrie Wills Way - more than 100 metres away - on September 8. They were hunting a man who allegedly attacked Sergeant Simon Tate the night before.

Tate was beaten unconscious and left with broken eye sockets and cheekbones.

After the raid, the family told the Sunday Star-Times that officers on the scene said a GPS error was to blame.

However, Detective Inspector Mark Gutry, Counties Manukau crime field manager, blamed the mistake on "human error" after an Independent Police Conduct Authority complaint was handed back to him to investigate.

Officers carrying out the warrant had simply printed a satellite map off a computer which showed the roads and houses in the area - it did not pinpoint any particular house.

"It is not a GPS problem, it's a human error. [Officers] looked and misread a map and went to the wrong address," he said.

"We've completed our inquiry and we still accept that we made a mistake and went to the wrong house, the damage has been repaired and that's at the cost of police."

Gutry said the mapping system used by police was no different to Google maps, but that it was simply called "maps". "We don't know what piece of paper was used when they looked at it. It could have been any map, it could have been a photocopy of a paper map," she said.

On the day their home was raided, the family - who did not want to be identified - said neighbours saw about 30 officers storm into their house while they were at church.

Later that day, a detective arrived to question the family, which includes four children aged four to 15. The couple said they didn't know the suspect, but soon after several police cars "packed out" the street and about 15 officers surrounded the house.

It was only when the couple saw some police paperwork that they could show the officers that they were at the wrong address.

The family now wants compensation for emotional distress. It took more than two months for police to repair their home.

The family's lawyer, Kahungunu Barron-Afeaki SC , said the family would meet Gutry this week to discuss the investigation before pursuing compensation.

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- Sunday Star Times

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