Officer failed in his duty

By Kristin Edge

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A Northland father has questioned why his handcuffed son was forced over a fence by a police officer and left paralysed when officers could have helped or allowed him to climb between the wires.

Ray Legg and his family were left angry and frustrated after the release of the Independent Police Conduct Authority's (IPCA) report on the serious spinal cord injuries to 28-year-old Shane Legg, following his arrest in April last year after he led police on a high-speed pursuit.

Ray Legg said it had been a "slap in the face" that the officers involved had not been stood down while his son had life-changing injuries.

The IPCA investigation concluded that while police actions were reasonable and complied with the law in most respects, one officer failed to fulfil his duty of care to Mr Legg.

"The officer made an error of judgment by not stopping to fully consider the risks to Mr Legg and options for mitigating those risks," said IPCA chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers.

"That failure contributed to the injury that Mr Legg suffered."

The watchdog now recommended police reconsider their decision not to take action against the officer, an acting sergeant, under the code of conduct.

It has also recommended amendments to the police manual to include the potential risks to the safety of handcuffed offenders.

Northland Police District Commander Superintendent Russell Le Prou accepted the finding, but noted the officer did not intend to cause injury.

"The arrest of Mr Legg was reasonable and in compliance with all relevant police policies. The Authority also considered it appropriate for Mr Legg to be handcuffed upon arrest for a number of reasons.

"Unfortunately an error of judgment by one of the officers, together with Mr Legg's own actions, has proved to have serious consequences."

Mr Le Prou said police would now consider whether any action under the Officer failed in his duty: report

Shane's life will never be the same and our lives will never be the same again.Ray Legg, fatherpolice Code of Conduct was warranted.

The report also revealed Mr Legg had methamphetamine in his blood at the time and police discovered a small plastic bag containing 34g of methamphetamine in his car. He was disqualified from driving indefinitely and he had tried to flee from police previously.

Mr Legg has since undergone nine operations, that have led to other complications and an extremely slow recovery. He now has some limited mobility.

Two IPCA representatives delivered a copy of the report to the Legg family yesterday.

"Shane was upset. He's had a couple of sleepless nights knowing this report was coming. It's got him stressed out and reliving the whole ordeal again," Ray Legg said.

"Shane's life will never be the same and our lives will never be the same again. The officer could have pulled the wires apart or the other two cops on the other side could have helped. It was as easy as that."

He accepted Shane was no angel and deserved a kick in the backside for speeding, but did not deserve to have his neck broken while in police custody.

Shane Legg was clocked doing 136km/h by police when he took off, abandoned his car and ran up a steep, wooded hill about 9pm on April 24 last year. An officer and dog handler arrested him at the top of the hill.

Mr Legg, handcuffed with hands behind his back, was escorted to the bottom of the hill where he was told to climb over a metre-high fence.

In his attempt to climb it, Mr Legg fell and immediately cried out in pain. He was then moved 30m-40m by two other officers and after complaining of a burning sensation in his back was laid on the ground while police called for an ambulance.

Mr Legg, in his complaint to the IPCA, alleged his injuries were caused because he was pushed by police.

Mr Le Prou said police took their duty of care very seriously.

"We arrest thousands of people every year and are often required to make split second decisions in some trying situations. Our staff go out there to protect the community, not to cause harm. It is always upsetting when this sort of incident happens to people under their care."

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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