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Complaints over Nicky Stevens case upheld by IPCA

All five complaints by Nicky Stevens’ family over police handling of missing person ‘search’ upheld by IPCA

For over two days in March last year, no Police search took place for missing Hamilton man, Nicky Stevens, a patient under compulsory care of the Waikato DHB.

During that time, Nicky drowned in the Waikato River, after being let out on 9 March 2016, unsupervised, from the DHB’s Henry Bennett Centre for a ’15-minute smoke break’.

He was a high suicide risk, something the Police and DHB knew about and something Nicky’s family warned both about.

Nicky’s family contacted Police on numerous occasions during the two days seeking progress information about the search, and were never told that no search had commenced.

Nicky’s father also emailed the Minister of Police urgently seeking information during that time – with the Minister’s office refusing to do more than to pass the email on to the Police Commissioner; from whom no response was ever received.

Two witnesses have stated to Police that they saw Nicky alive in central Hamilton one day after he went missing.

Following Nicky’s death, his family complained to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) about the lack of Police action during the first two days after Nicky was reported missing to them.

In its Report, the IPCA stated “that policy and good practice was not followed in this case and that, up until the morning of 11 March 2016, no one took responsibility for ensuring that Police were doing all they reasonably could to locate Nicholas” [see further ‘Conclusions’ from the Report attached – full report on IPCA website at 10.00am Wednesday].

Nicky’s mother Jane Stevens said “We are pleased that the IPCA has done a thorough job of investigating what didn’t happen, and has shown our complaints to be accurate.”

“But we are shattered at the extent of the bungling and poor systems, as we know that the prime opportunity to find Nicky alive was lost because of this.”

“It was a black comedy of errors from both the DHB and the Police, one that we wouldn’t wish on any other family.”

Nicky’s parents met with Waikato Police Commander Bruce Bird on Tuesday, who apologised to them, and discussed several actions Police were taking to improve their work in the missing persons and mental health areas.

“We thank Supt Bird for the Police apology,” said Nicky’s father Dave Macpherson, “and accept that the Police have taken steps to improve the way they handle cases like Nicky’s, and are willing to include us in some planning work that is being done around this.”

“We note that the way the IPCA and Police have handled our complaints following Nicky’s death is streets ahead of the DHB and other Health agencies, who have yet to start any reviews or investigations into Nicky’s death."



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