Warning: Some readers may find this video distressing

Footage of police using a Taser on a morbidly obese man who later died, can now be shown for the first time.

Last December, four Hawke's Bay police officers were cleared by a jury after a trial at the Napier District Court of assaulting Gregory McPeake in the moments before he died.

The 53-year-old was wanted by police for assaulting his 76-year-old father in Hastings about 6.15pm on March 12, 2015.

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He died during his arrest in a car park at Napier's Westshore Beach, after an officer found his vehicle at 12.49am.

Judge Phillip Cooper has now given media, including the Herald, permission to show footage of the arrest.

The footage, from two Taser X2s used to shoot electronic probes into McPeake's vehicle, show the 179kg man sitting at the driver's wheel after police smashed the windows. He had failed to respond to loudhailer calls to get out of the vehicle and surrender.

The footage shows McPeake lighting a cigarette before being struck by the probes fired from Tasers either side of the vehicle.

McPeake was also sprayed with OC Spray and bitten by police dogs.

He eventually fell out of the car, became unresponsive as police tried to secure his hands behind his back, and died at the scene, despite first aid from police and paramedics.

Westshore Domain, Napier, where Gregory McPeake died. Photo/Warren Buckland
Westshore Domain, Napier, where Gregory McPeake died. Photo/Warren Buckland

The Crown argued the footage should not be released, or release should at least be delayed, arguing the officers face Independent Police Conduct Authority and employment inquiries.

Releasing the footage to the public may "unfairly pre-empt any findings by either investigation", it argued.

The Crown also said the release of the footage may affect police operational matters.

The views of McPeake's family were also outlined in Judge Cooper's decision, with the Crown arguing his parents are "strongly of the view that the Taser camera footage should not be released".

"To do so would be a major setback to the ability to recover from the incident and the death of their son," it read.

However, the judgment also said McPeake's daughter wanted the footage to be made public.

The officers argued, through their lawyer Susan Hughes QC, that the footage "wrongly leads to an assumption, that the actions of the officers caused the death of McPeake".

"It represents only a fraction of the interaction between the officers and McPeake," their lawyer said.

"The officers will be subject to the opprobrium of the public in circumstances which are unjustified. It will undermine the confidence that the public have in the police."

However, Judge Cooper said he did not accept that the release of the footage would adversely affect police operational effectiveness.

"The Taser footage has already been played in open court and has been reported in the media."

He also said he was unable to see how the release of the Taser footage would "unfairly pre-empt any findings" of an IPCA or employment inquiry.

He added that because the footage had already been played during the trial the "individual interest of those family members who oppose the release of the Taser footage must give way to the public interest".

The question of the footage only showing a "fraction of the interaction" between the officers and McPeake come down to the balance, fairness and accuracy of the media's reports, Judge Cooper said.

"The media will need to provide a context which, to be fair, balanced and accurate, would no doubt include matters leading up to the use of the Tasers and the police dogs.

"Having presided over the trial, I can say that it is incontrovertible that the officers acted in good faith and any suggestion otherwise would be highly actionable."

Judge Cooper had earlier declined applications for permanent name suppression of cleared officers Senior Constable Andrew Knox, and Constables Alex Simister and Rochelle Bryant, but granted continued suppression of the name of the fourth.

The jury was told throughout the trial nothing any of the officers did had any "causal link" to the death of McPeake, who was described as morbidly obese and suffering ill-health, had alcohol issues, and on the night had taken an array of drugs and was considered potentially armed, dangerous and suicidal.