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Wallace inquest a chance for change: Nandor

12 November 2004

Wallace inquest a chance for change: Nandor

Green MP Nandor Tanczos has welcomed the announcement that the inquest into the killing of Steven Wallace is to be reopened, and has offered some ideas on how police practise in such cases might change.

The Taranaki Daily News reported today that the inquest will resume on January 26. Steven Wallace was shot dead by police in Waitara four years ago while on a window-smashing spree with a golf club. The inquest into his death was put on hold in 2001 after his family initiated an ultimately unsuccessful private prosecution of Constable Abbot, the officer who pulled the trigger but who the Police had decided not to prosecute.

"Constable Abbot was found not guilty by a jury at the High Court, so this inquest is not about revisiting his case," said Nandor, the Green Party's Justice Spokesperson.

"It is, however, an opportunity to try and make such a tragedy less likely in the future through the Coroner making recommendations about how the Police could better handle such situations.

"During a visit I made in May to Brixton in London, Lambeth Borough Police Commander Chief Superintendent Richard Quinn outlined for me how they are trying to improve their practise.

"Following the criticism they faced over the death of Steven Lawrence in Brixton, the Metropolitan Police made a number of changes. In contrast, the New Zealand Police seem to have learnt nothing from the death of Steven Wallace in Waitara.

"The Police's own evaluation of their practices following the Wallace shooting, the Shuey report, did not go far enough. The reopened Coroner's process will provide an independent voice on Police procedures."

Nandor said that Community Liaison Groups chosen by local people, as used in Brixton, can provide a safeguard for both Police and the public in these kinds of incidents.

"Despite the court case, there are some people who feel justice has not been done, as there would also have been if Constable Abbot had been found guilty. The lack of independent witnesses makes such divisive outcomes inevitable.

"If the Police's policy was to call out an independent community representative at the same time as they checked out a gun everyone would be covered," said Nandor.


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