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Fatal Shooting Of Donald Ineson To Defend Others Legally Justified

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that two Police officers were legally justified in shooting at Donald Ineson, who had threatened his wife with a shotgun and hit one of the officers with his car as he fled his home. A bullet fragment struck Mr Ineson, causing a fatal chest injury. Forensic examination was unable to determine which officer fired the fatal shot.

The Authority determined that the shooting was not justified for the purpose of preventing Mr Ineson’s escape under section 40 of the Crimes Act 1961. However, it was justified under section 48 of the Crimes Act 1961, to defend the public at large and other Police officers.

This incident occurred on 25 November 2018, when Mrs Ineson called 111 to report that her husband had pointed a shotgun at her during an argument. During the call, she heard two gunshots and feared he had shot himself. However, he had not, and a few minutes later she reported that he was shooting the front door. While Mrs Ineson reasonably believed at the time that Mr Ineson had fired his shotgun at the door, a later scene examination revealed he had used an axe to break in and get the keys to his car.

Two local officers armed themselves with pistols and rifles and went directly to the address. As they approached the house on foot, the officers saw Mr Ineson was about to leave in his car and ordered him to stop. Mr Ineson accelerated out of his driveway, striking one of the officers. The officers fired a total of 10 shots at Mr Ineson as he drove away.

“In the officers’ minds, Mr Ineson was volatile and dangerous, and potentially suicidal. They feared he would deliberately crash into another vehicle, potentially killing or seriously injuring any occupant of that vehicle. They also believed Mr Ineson may still have had the shotgun with him and were concerned he would use it against other Police officers in his efforts to escape” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

The Authority considered that, assessed objectively, the likelihood of these risks eventuating was low and that shooting at Mr Ineson to prevent his escape in these circumstances was not justified. However, the officers also shot at him to defend others, and the legal test for that situation involves assessing whether the force was reasonable in the circumstances as the officers believed them to be. Accordingly, the Authority found that the officers shooting at Mr Ineson was a reasonable response and justified in the context of their genuine belief that he posed an imminent and deadly threat to other road users and Police.

The Authority also found:

1) the initial Police response to Mrs Ineson’s 111 call was appropriate;

2) Officers A and B complied with policy when arming themselves; and

3) the cautious manner in which the Police approached Mr Ineson’s car after he was shot was reasonable. Sadly, he died before they could provide medical assistance.

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