Four Hawke's Bay police officers have been acquitted of assaulting a man shortly before he died while under arrest.

Gregory McPeake, 53, died in a Westshore Beach carpark on March 13, 2015.

Three of the officers can now be named. They are senior constable Andrew Knox, constable Rochelle Bryant and constable Alexander Simister.

Lawyer Jonathan Krebs successfully argued for continued name suppression of the fourth officer.


All of the officers pleaded not guilty to one charge of assaulting Mr McPeake with a weapon - Bryant and Simister with a taser and Knox and the fourth officer with a police dog.

The trial which started last week, centred on whether the force used in trying to apprehend Mr McPeake was appropriate or excessive.

It took the jury less than an hour to find the officers not guilty.

The court had heard that at 179kg Mr McPeake was morbidly obese, in ill-health, had taken drugs, and was suicidal.

It was agreed nothing any officer did had a "causal link" to the death.

Evidence revealed that six officers advanced on Mr McPeake's two-door car with the acting sergeant in a patrol car making voice appeals for him to get out of the car.

When he did not get out, an assault on the vehicle was launched, with the windows being smashed, and OC Spray and Tasers used on the man before dogs also entered the vehicle.

Mr McPeake was ultimately forced out, began vomiting as he lay on the ground, and died despite first aid from police and ambulance staff.


During the trial, lawyers for the four officers maintained they used reasonable force when confronting Mr McPeake.

At the time they believed he was armed and dangerous as just hours earlier he had seriously assaulted his father.

At a press conference following the verdict, Eastern District Commander Superintendent Sandra Venables acknowledged it had been an "extremely difficult time" for the McPeake family, police staff and their families.

"However the public rightly expects that we, as police officers, are held to account for any actions we undertake.

"The same prosecution test under the Solicitor General's guidelines applies for police officers, just as it does for any member of the public.

Ms Venables said the matter was thoroughly investigated with assistance from out-of-district staff and was subject to extensive review, with the decision being made that it should be put before the courts to make the final and independent determination.

"It is important the public has trust and confidence in police to do the right thing."

"This is ultimately driven not just by our actions but also by our accountability for those actions."

Ms Venables said police staff faced challenging situations every day on behalf of the communities they serve.

"It is important that we, as police officers, are open and transparent in every action that we take."

An employment process is underway involving the four officers who were before the court as well as one other. An Independent Police Conduct Authority investigation is also underway.

Ms Venables said she respected the decision of the court to name three of the four officers involved.

She believed their naming would have no impact on their ability to do their job.

"They are long serving well regarded police officers I'm sure they'll do their jobs excellently."