An innocent man injured in a motorway shootout has had his bid for compensation thrown out.

Richard Stephen Neville launched legal proceedings claiming $1.4 million after he was sprayed with shrapnel and glass shards when shots were fired by a police armed offenders squad member during the 2009 incident.

Richard Neville suffered life-changing and serious injuries when caught in police crossfire. Photo / Michael Craig
Richard Neville suffered life-changing and serious injuries when caught in police crossfire. Photo / Michael Craig



Courier driver Halatau Naitoko died after being accidentally shot.

Justice Geoffrey Venning's judgment, delivered this afternoon, said Neville's statement must be struck out because there was "no reasonably arguable cause of action".

Police were pursuing rifle-wielding car thief Stephen McDonald, who was in the back of the plaintiff's truck at the time.

Mr Neville provided an affidavit to the High Court at Auckland saying the actions of the police gunman - known only as Officer 84 - amounted to gross negligence or recklessness.

His shot went through the front windscreen of the vehicle but the Crown lawyer Peter Gunn, acting on behalf of the Attorney General, said that was clearly an accident.


Justice Venning agreed the action could not succeed because "the plaintiff cannot establish that Officer 84 knew at the time he fired the shot it was unsafe nor that it would cause death or severe injury to the plaintiff".

Even if that was the case, the judge said the scenario did not reach the threshold for the purpose of section nine of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, relied on by the plaintiff.

"While the seriousness of Mr Neville's injuries must not be discounted, countervailing factors such as the emergency situation faced by the police and the officer's duty to take action to protect members of the public also need to be weighed," Justice Venning said.

"The police identified Mr McDonald as presenting a risk to life and the public in general and in that sense the actions of shooting at him can be seen as proportionate."

He also pointed out that any claim for compensation for grievous bodily harm was a claim for personal injury which was covered under the Accident Compensation Act.

Mr Neville's lawyer Charl Hirschfeld said his client provided the best first-hand account of the scenario.

"This narrative is neither fanciful nor speculative," he said.

The lawyer accepted it was a "fast-moving and unstable set of circumstances" and the involvement of the armed offenders squad was logical.

But he said the shots were fired recklessly and unlawfully and therefore in contradiction of the Bill of Rights Act.

Justice Venning disagreed, stating the conduct did not meet the criteria of causing "shock and revulsion" or such as to "shock the national conscience".