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Police Withdrawal Of Prosecution Concerning Fatal Motorcycle Accident

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police were unjustified in their decision to withdraw a charge against a man pertaining to a fatal motorcycle accident at Rotorua on 29 January 2019.

At about 5.25pm, 57-year-old Tony Parahi was riding his motorcycle south along State Highway 36, adjacent to Lake Rotorua. Ahead of Mr Parahi was a man, a local farm worker, who was driving a 12-metre-long tractor and trailer in the same direction. The farm worker pulled over to his left to let two cars pass before he turned right, across the road to enter a paddock. This manoeuvre took him into the path of Mr Parahi on his motorcycle.

Police reconstructions indicated that in trying to avoid a collision with the tractor and trailer, Mr Parahi braked heavily and lost control of his motorcycle. He was thrown onto the roadway, the motorcycle vaulted in the air and landed on him. Members of the public assisted Mr Parahi, but he died at the scene.

Police investigated the crash and subsequently charged the farm worker with careless driving causing death. On 19 May 2020, after the matter had been before the Court for 10 months, and was listed for trial, the Police prosecutor withdrew the charge, informing the Court that no evidence would be offered.

A Coronial Inquest into Mr Parahi’s death was held in May 2021. The Coroner found the death was an avoidable accident, in that the farm worker was careless in not waiting for the motorcycle to pass.

In December 2021, we received a complaint from a member of Mr Parahi’s whānau and conducted an independent investigation. We found there were shortfalls in the crash investigation, but it was of sufficient quality to lay the charge. We found that the Police’s decision to withdraw the charge was inexplicable, and the matter should have been decided in court by a Judge. We were not able to reach a view as to whether bias against Mr Parahi played a part, except that the withdrawal of the prosecution case was made without a clear and documented reason. We also found the communication by Police with Mr Parahi’s whānau was poor.

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“The Authority’s overall conclusion was that the prosecution should have gone ahead so that the issue of guilt could be determined following trial before the Judge.” said Authority Chair, Judge Kenneth Johnston KC.

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