A Gisborne police constable accused of assaulting a motorist
who refused to remain at a cordon has been cleared of any
After a day and a half hearing in Gisborne District Court,
Judge Tony Adeane dismissed charges against the constable
yesterday, saying safe and effective policing often required
swift and resolute actions that civilians not used to seeing,
might find disturbing.
He granted the constable permanent name suppression, citing
special circumstances for family reasons.
The constable faced two charges of assault, one with intent
to injure, after a complaint from 40-year-old driver Aaron
Mr Newdick alleged he was punched and kicked for attempting
to leave a police cordon near the Wi Pere Street and Ormond
Road intersection in the early hours of March 14. He suffered
a significant cut near his eye and now experienced memory
loss, he said.
During cross-examination, defence counsel Doug Rishworth put
it to Mr Newdick that he had been unco-operative,
unnecessarily dramatic and that he was by nature
Mr Newdick confirmed that the injury to his eye needed only
to be glued shut, not stitched, and that he had been well
enough to drive himself to the accident and emergency
department for treatment.
Mr Rishworth put it to other witnesses that the constable's
arm actions, which they thought looked like strikes to Mr
Newdick, were actually consistent with the constable trying
to apply handcuffs.
Dismissing the charges, Judge Adeane said the onus was on the
prosecution to show assaults occurred and that they did so
outside the realms provided by legislation for police to use
additional force where necessary to restrain individuals.
Judge Adeane said the case was a prime example of the
difficulties involved with eye witness evidence. Even the
most earnest and honest of witnesses could be mistaken or
unable to remember when trying to recall minute detail about
events that happened during tumultuous circumstances many
Civilians were not familiar with seeing police apply force
and witnessing such an incident could be especially
disturbing. Impressions formed by civilians under those
circumstances had to be treated with care, the judge said.
In this particular case, it was clear the constable had
definitely used force to restrain the complainant but the
judge said he was not satisfied on the evidence that any blow
had been struck in the manner alleged. Evidence as to the
number of blows and where they had occurred was conflicting.
Even the evidence of a father and son, who had watched much
of the incident from the same nearby house, was at odds.
If the evidence had been clearer, he would have still found
in favour of the constable, the judge said.
The defendant was, by his own candid admission, someone who
struggled with authority and who could be easily riled under
pressure, as was apparent in his dealings with police and
even at times when he was giving his evidence in court, the
At the time of the alleged incident, the complainant - a
logging truck driver - had been further stressed after an
accident that was not his fault damaged his trailer unit. By
the time he was stopped at the cordon, he had been working
for 21 hours and was understandably fatigued.
During the hearing, the constable elected not to give
evidence or call any witnesses.
However, he had submitted an out-of-court statement, which
could be given some weight. In it, the constable denied
punching or kicking Mr Newdick but said there had been a
regrettable turn of events which had required him to use
considerable force to arrest the complainant.
The judge also pointed to evidence of the constable remarking
to Mr Newdick at the scene, that he "could have avoided all
of this if he had just done what he was told".
A large number of police officers were present in the public
gallery throughout the hearing. Many appeared relieved when
the judge gave his finding.
- Gisborne Herald