Three police officers have been charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of a man in custody in Taranaki.

But the Police Association is urging people not to speculate about the case - and said there was no suggestion that the death was the result of any physical or violent confrontation between the officers and the deceased.

The charges relate to the death of a 55-year-old man at the Hawera police station in the early hours of June 1, 2019.

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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The dead man's name has previously been suppressed by the coroner.

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.

"The victim's family has been advised of the police decision to lay charges.

"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.

"As the matter is before the courts, police cannot provide any further details or comments about the case."

The charges relate to the death of a 55-year-old man at the Hawera Police Station in the early hours of June 1, 2019. Photo / File
The charges relate to the death of a 55-year-old man at the Hawera Police Station in the early hours of June 1, 2019. Photo / File

Just before 1pm Police Minister Stuart Nash issued a statement on the charges.

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"Any incident involving a loss of life in Police custody is taken very seriously," he said.

"The charges today reflect the gravity of the circumstances.

"This will be a difficult time for the victim's family and the wider police organisation. I extend my sympathies to the man's family.

"It is also important to acknowledge the professional work by a police investigation team to get to this point.

"This has been a challenging case to work on and today's court appearance is the result of detailed work behind the scenes.

Nash could not comment further.

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

"It is now a matter for the court, and we will leave the court to do its work.

"Any speculation prior to the prior to the full facts of this situation being disclosed in court would do a disservice to the deceased and his family, and the police officers involved."

The Herald is seeking comment from the IPCA and Worksafe.

Cell death followed family harm incident

The Herald reported that police were called to a family harm incident in Hawera about 11.30pm on May 31 last year and arrested a drunk man for assault.

He was taken to Hawera police station.

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During a routine cell check the 55-year-old man was found unresponsive, police said at the time.

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.

Acting Central District Commander Inspector Chris de Wattignar said at the time it was a very sad time for all involved.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the family. Police staff make every effort to ensure the safety of those in police custody."

The death was referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority and WorkSafe.