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Report: Fatal pursuit of Luke John Bowman Yates


31 August 2012


Fatal pursuit of Luke John Bowman Yates near Taipa, Northland

Breaches of Police policy have been identified during a pursuit that ended when the fleeing driver crashed and died near Taipa in Northland on 17 April 2011.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has released the report of its investigation into the pursuit of 22 year old Luke John Bowman Yates in the early hours of the morning.

Mr Yates failed to stop at a compulsory breath test checkpoint. He accelerated away from officers and approximately 2.3 kilometres further along the road he crashed into a power pole and died at the scene.

The Warrant of Fitness for his Honda Civic had expired and an examination of the car indicated he had not been wearing a seat belt. The car had a manual transmission but he was permitted to drive only automatic vehicles. Toxicology results showed he was under the blood alcohol limit yet there was THC in his blood, indicating he had smoked cannabis before driving.

Two Police officers drove after him, in separate cars. Neither believed the circumstances fitted the definition of a pursuit because the Honda Civic was so far ahead of them. Nevertheless the Authority’s view is that the actions of Officer A, in the first car, did amount to a pursuit.

The investigation found the officers consequently did not fully comply with aspects of Police policies relating to speed; ongoing risk assessment; communications; and the option of abandoning the pursuit. The Authority has concluded these failures by Police were undesirable.

Police were justified in trying to apprehend Mr Yates. He demonstrated by his actions he was prepared to take risks to avoid being caught.

The Authority repeats a long-standing recommendation that Police develop a compulsory drug and alcohol testing policy for staff, although there is no reason to believe the officers had consumed any alcohol in this case. It also recommends Police on such checkpoints are given a safety briefing at the start of their shift to ensure they are familiar with policies relating to fleeing drivers.



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