Police officers' assault trial starts in Napier today

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CRIME SCENE: Police tents at Westshore Domain after Gregory McPeake died.
CRIME SCENE: Police tents at Westshore Domain after Gregory McPeake died.

Four police officers will today go on trial charged with assaulting a man who died after being tasered, pepper-sprayed and bitten by a police dog in an early-morning incident near Napier's Westshore Beach.

Details of the accused - each of whom has pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault with a weapon - had been suppressed pending the Napier District Court trial which follows the death of Taranaki man Gregory McPeake, 53, on the Friday morning of March 13, 2015.

After defence applications opposed by media were heard in court, Judge Phillip Cooper ruled the occupations could be revealed, because otherwise it would effectively create a trial in secret.

But the names remain suppressed pending review after the verdicts at the end of a trial which is scheduled to take up to three weeks.

The charges relate to an incident which happened about 12.30am, after police came across a car containing Mr McPeake.

He had been wanted in connection with an incident at his parents' Hastings home during the night. He had driven to Hawke's Bay from his home in New Plymouth.

His father, 76-year-old Ray McPeake, was taken to hospital after apparently being assaulted in an incident in his home.

At Westshore, police forced entry in to the car after Gregory McPeake ignored requests to get out. His breathing deteriorated as soon as he was out of the car, and he died at the scene.

The trial was to have started yesterday but the jury of seven women and five men had to be discharged before the trial started. A new jury will be empanelled today before Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk, of Palmerston North, calls the first of an expected 28 prosecution witnesses.

About 20 of the witnesses are police staff, including others who were at the scene about the time of the incident and investigators from outside the Eastern Police District.

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