NZ police charged over death in custody

NZ Police Minister Stuart Nash says he's not aware of racism being linked to a death in custody.
NZ Police Minister Stuart Nash says he's not aware of racism being linked to a death in custody.

Three police officers face charges of manslaughter after an investigation into the death of a man in custody in New Zealand's Taranaki region.

A 55-year-old man, who has been granted name suppression by the coroner, died at Hawera Police Station on June 1 last year,

A police statement at the time said the man was arrested for assault after police received a call to attend a family harm incident and attended a nearby address.

According to the statement, the intoxicated man was found unresponsive after a routine check, and did not respond to CPR from police or paramedics.

After consideration of legal advice from the New Plymouth Crown Solicitor and a Queen's Counsel, police have decided to lay charges.

In a police statement issued on Wednesday, the charges allege "the officers were grossly negligent in their duty of care to the victim and that this negligence was a causal factor in his death".

The officers have been granted name suppression by the court, and stood down.

Police have yet to respond as to whether they are still being paid.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said the matter was being treated "very seriously".

"They conducted an investigation and decided that the evidence was there to press charges but because it is in front of the courts I am not going to offer a comment," he said.

Mr Nash has faced sustained questioning this week about racism in the NZ police force, following on from a series of large-scale protests in the United States triggered by the police killing of George Floyd.

Mr Nash said he hadn't heard the suggestion that racism was a factor in this death in custody.

The three officers have been remanded to appear at the New Plymouth High Court on June 26.

Australian Associated Press