An Auckland police officer has won an appeal and seen his conviction quashed for illegally presenting a Taser at a woman.

Constable Sean Mathew Doak faced two charges over wielding a Taser at a woman after a high-speed pursuit in Auckland during September 2017.

Following a trial last August, a jury returned split verdicts and found the 26-year-old not guilty of assault with a weapon but guilty of unlawfully presenting a restricted weapon.

Despite arguments from Doak's lawyer, Todd Simmonds, that Doak would likely lose his job, Judge Noel Sainsbury convicted the constable.


The decision of Judge Sainsbury, who said New Zealanders "expect better" of police officers, was then appealed to the High Court and a hearing held last month.

Today, Justice Simon Moore issued his judgment - granting the appeal and quashing Doak's conviction.

Doak, who was on restrictive and non-frontline duties as the court proceedings progressed, is still subject to an employment investigation, Superintendent Karyn Malthus, the Auckland City District Commander, has told the Herald.

Police would not comment in the appeal outcome when approached by the Herald, but Malthus said Doak remains a police employee and an employment investigation is still underway.

"During this time the officer will not be on frontline duties," she said. "Police, like any employer, has privacy restrictions to consider and it would be inappropriate to comment further while this is ongoing."

Simmonds said his client, who had not before been subject to any internal disciplinary procedures, would not comment on the case or appeal win while he was still facing the employment matters.

Affidavit evidence from the senior legal officer for the NZ Police Association had indicated Doak - who wants to be a career cop - would have "more likely than not" lost his job if the conviction stood.

Justice Moore said in his decision that "no decision of this court will operate to 'usurp' or fetter the District Commander's decision on Constable Doak's future".


"There is no question here of concealment or brushing the details of the offending under the carpet.

"The police is a uniformed and disciplined force. It will be for the District Commander to make the assessment of Constable Doak's fitness to remain in the police's employment in the light of the organisation's relevant and applicable principles and values."

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The jury had found Doak guilty of briefly firing his Taser's arc mode without cause towards handcuffed woman Mary Jane Takerei in the back of a police car in September 2017.

The arc option triggers the Taser to produce an electrical current between two prongs.

A recording from the Taser showed the arc mode was activated briefly. But Takerei was not electrocuted at any stage and she offered no evidence during the trial about the arc incident.

The incident came after a dangerous chase which saw the fleeing driver's car potentially reach speeds of up to 200km/h, the trial heard.

Police were forced to call off its ground units, while the Eagle helicopter tracked the suspect vehicle, which had Takerei as a passenger, to the underground carpark of Auckland's SkyCity casino.

After the driver fled on foot, a scuffle ensued between Takerei and police officers, with Takerei telling the court that Doak pepper-sprayed her before she was dragged away by police.

Multiple police officers, however, also said Takerei sprayed a police officer in the face with what appeared to be a can of CRC.

In Justice Moore's judgment, he said while Doak's initial "robust" response to the situation cannot be criticised, there were "a number of aspects" which he found aggravating.

"The first is that [Takerei] was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car and unable to see. On any analysis she was vulnerable."

Justice Moore also said the firing of the arc option was "intended to intimidate" the woman.

"Thirdly, the most serious aggravating feature is that these actions were undertaken by a police officer acting in the course of his duty.

"For him to have acted threateningly when dealing with a vulnerable person is objectionable, not only because of any harm cause to the victim, but also because such conduct damages the reputation of the police in the eyes of the public."

Justice Moore also noted the importance of police officers not being seen to be treated more leniently than other offenders, but that it would also be wrong to treat them more harshly.

He had also noted at the hearing the heightened public debate around the world, including in New Zealand, about the use of police force and other social issues following the death of US man George Floyd.

Takerei also claimed Doak may have pressed his Taser to her forehead and between her eyes - an allegation which resulted in the assault with a weapon charge.

Video footage of the incident shows Takerei's legs flailing at the time. However, other police officers at the scene told the jury they didn't hear Doak threatening Takerei or see him pressing the Taser against her forehead.

Doak was found not guilty of that charge.

Takerei, meanwhile, was arrested for assaulting police after slamming a car door against another officer's leg, while the wanted driver was later found by police leaving an elevator in the casino.