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Man Self-harms While In Police Custody

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Court-based officers unintentionally enabled a man to self-harm while in Police custody, when they unwittingly provided him an illicit drug. When the man was found in an unconscious state, medical attention was promptly provided, and he suffered no long-term effects.

On the night of Saturday 8 October 2022, Police arrested a man for breach of bail and took him to the Waitematā District Custody Unit. While there, the man attempted to self-harm using his clothing as a make-shift ligature. Officers acted promptly, and the man was transported to hospital. After being assessed, he was returned to the Police station and the following morning was transferred to the Waitakere District Court cells.

At the Court cells, the man made a further attempt at self-harm by drinking the contents of an unlabelled eye drop bottle. At his request, officers had given him the bottle from his property, after he complained of having sore eyes. A short time later, officers found the man to be unresponsive, and an ambulance was called. The contents of the bottle were discovered to be a class A drug, Gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL).

While the man recovered in hospital, in the custody of Corrections officers, he tried a third time to harm himself, even though handcuffed to an officer. Police notified the Authority of the events, and we investigated.

The Authority found that for the most part, the Police care of Mr Z was appropriate, although they failed to follow policy in dealing with the man’s property, which allowed dangerous items into the custody area. We also found that officers breached their duty of care when they provided the man the unmarked eye drop bottle.

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“In one sense, this case involved a series of unfortunate circumstances. However, ultimately, it was the departure from Police’s own policy that enabled Mr Z to access the GBL. The case illustrates the importance of strict adherence to policies that exist to protect vulnerable detainees” said Authority Chair, Judge Kenneth Johnston KC.

A copy of the IPCA report is attached.

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