The family of a Taranaki man who died while in police custody say the last year has been "hell".

The 55-year-old man, whose name has been suppressed, died while in police custody at the Hāwera police station in the early hours of June 1, 2019.

Three police officers were today charged with manslaughter in connection to his death.

The charges allege that the officers were grossly negligent in their duty of care to the victim and that this negligence was a causal factor in his death.

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Today's charges were something his family had been fighting for since his death, his sisters told Stuff.

"It's been a long, hard year," his younger sister said.

"Lots of emails, lots of phone calls. At least now we have justice. Some justice anyway."

While his family have taken comfort in the charges being laid, "it doesn't take away the pain."

"We've been fighting a long time to get a little bit of justice."

In a statement today, police said the decision to file charges was made after a thorough investigation and consideration of legal advice from the New Plymouth Crown Solicitor and a Queen's Counsel.

"All three officers have been stood down from their duties and an employment process will follow in due course."

The three officers have been granted interim name suppression and remanded on bail to appear in the High Court at New Plymouth on June 26.


The man was taken into custody after a family harm incident in Hāwera about 11.30pm on May 31 last year.

Police earlier said that the intoxicated man was arrested for assault.

During a routine cell check he was found unresponsive and a volunteer fire crew was called to assist the ambulance at the police station about 2.30am.

Police staff performed CPR until the ambulance arrived.

Paramedics continued to try to resuscitate him for more than 30 minutes before he was pronounced dead.

The family of a man who died in police custody say the officers failed him in a duty of care. Photo / File
The family of a man who died in police custody say the officers failed him in a duty of care. Photo / File

The New Zealand Police Association confirmed this afternoon it was supporting the three officers.

Association President Chris Cahill said the officers are members of the association and as such they are entitled to legal and welfare support.

While the association will not make any detailed comments about the case, Cahill says it was important to note that there was absolutely no suggestion that the death was the result of any physical or violent confrontation between the officers and the deceased.

"Any death of a person in police custody is a tragic situation for the family of the deceased and in this case, for the officers involved and their families," he said

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