A Whangarei policeman has been found guilty of assaulting a prisoner it the back of a patrol car after a judge found he lost control of himself while angry and frustrated.

Richard Soper, 38, stood trial last month in the Whangarei District Court charged with the assault of Wiremu Henare, now aged 18, on August 27, last year. Soper has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

On the night of August 27, last year, Henare and an associate went to an elderly woman's home in Maunu and Henare hit the 68-year-old woman several times with her walking stick before stealing her Audi. When police tried to stop him, he took off, reaching speeds of up to 160km/h before the car crashed at One Tree Point after he failed to take a left turn at speed.

Henare alleges that Soper punched him up to 10 times in the back of the police car while on the way back to Whangarei following his arrest. Soper denied punching Henare at all, but did admit he pushed Henare's face in the back of the car as the prisoner had pushed his face into the officer's face. He also said he swore at Henare and threatened to give him an infringement notice if he continued to undo his seatbelt. Soper also said he was disgusted at Henare's earlier behaviour in hitting the elderly lady with her walking stick during the home invasion.


But yesterday Judge Stan Thorburn found Soper guilty of assault and remanded him on bail to appear for sentencing on December 3. The judge did not enter a conviction against Soper.