A Northland man faces the prospect of life in a wheelchair after he suffered paralysing injuries in police custody. Shane Legg, 28, from Ruawai, spent 40 days in Whangarei Hospital's intensive care unit and had three operations to implant steel plates to stabilise a broken vertebra.

The disqualified driver tried to flee from police when he was seen driving on April 19. When he was eventually caught, police handcuffed his hands behind his back and took him back towards a waiting patrol car.

But they had to cross a seven-wire farm fence.

Shane Legg's father, Ray, claims his son was told by a police officer to climb the fence, then was pushed when he was halfway over it.


Northland police district commander Superintendent Russell Le Prou says that allegation will form part of the police investigation into the incident.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority is also investigating.

Shane Legg has a broken vertebra and injuries that have left him paralysed. His lawyer, Mina Wharepouri, said it did not matter whether he was pushed or fell while crossing the fence.

"Whichever is the case, the police have fallen down in their own duty to keep Shane safe from harm."

In the meantime, his family hope he will get the help he needs at the spinal unit in South Auckland.

"It will be at least six months," Ray Legg said, "so it's going to be a long haul."