Police acted unjustifiably and unreasonably in arresting a
Christchurch man who had armed himself with an air pistol and
a tee-ball bat while investigating sounds of an intruder on
his property soon after the Canterbury earthquakes, the
police watchdog has found.
Canterbury police accepted the findings, but said no further
disciplinary action would be taken against the officers
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has released its
report, which sets out its review of the police investigation
into their actions during the arrest of John Bennett in
Christchurch in December 2011.
In the early hours of December 16, 2011 Mr Bennett was woken
by the sound of an intruder on his Burwood property.
Given a recent spate of burglaries and looting in the suburb,
due to the area being largely deserted after the city's
February 2011 earthquake, Mr Bennett, who was wearing just a
T-shirt and underwear, went outside to investigate.
About the same time, police were actively searching for an
assailant who was tracked to Burwood.
After going back inside to call the police Mr Bennett heard
more noises and went outside a second time, armed with an air
pistol and tee-ball bat.
He discovered a police officer on his driveway, who
admonished him for holding weapons.
After an exchange with the officer and following the arrival
of other officers at the scene, Mr Bennett was arrested for
unlawfully carrying a firearm and possession of an offensive
During the arrest Mr Bennett was made to lie face down while
the arresting officer used his knee and foot on Mr Bennett's
back to keep him on the ground. Mr Bennett's face was also
pushed into the ground.
The charge was later withdrawn.
The police investigation concluded that the force used by the
arresting officer was reasonable.
However, following its review of the police investigation,
the authority determined that the force used was excessive,
and that this force and Mr Bennett's arrest were unjustified
Independent Police Conduct Authority chairman Judge Sir David
Carruthers said the arresting officer acted prematurely and
without an adequate appreciation for the facts of the
"As a result, the force used during Mr Bennett's arrest was
unnecessary and disproportionate to the circumstances," he
Certain actions of police were unnecessary and unwarranted,
and failed to have regard or respect for Mr Bennett's
dignity, Sir David said.
"In particular, (the officers) should have ensured Mr Bennett
was able to access appropriate clothing and footwear from his
home before taking him to the police station."
A complaint by Mr Bennett that an officer had not identified
himself was not upheld.
Sir David's report has been sent to Police Commissioner Peter
Marshall to determine what action should be taken in respect
of the officers involved.
Canterbury police said the officer involved had already
received additional training in response to the issues
District Commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said the
finding that the arrest and the force used were unjustified
raised a number of points that would be considered by the
district, which has already completed on its own
investigation into the incident.
"The IPCA has also raised some additional pertinent points
which will be factored into our reviews of future training
requirements, but no further disciplinary action will be
taken," Mr Knowles said.
"While we accept the findings of the IPCA and their reasons
for ruling as they have, I am satisfied that the police
investigation into the officers' actions was thorough and
"It must be remembered that the IPCA review of the police
investigation is a separate processes with different
parameters, and in this case they have come to a different
Mr Knowles said the context of the incident was also
"Every year on average, Police deal with around 200,000
apprehensions, and officers in the field must often make
split-second decisions in fast-moving and often highly
"I acknowledge that Mr Bennett feels aggrieved at the
treatment he received from police, and I have met with him to
discuss his concerns."
- Rebecca Quilliam of APNZ