Home detention after ‘gross negligence’ in overdose death

A Dunedin man will spend the next seven and a-half months in the home where his "gross negligence" led to the death of his on-off partner.

Carl Frederick Longshaw, 67, was sentenced to home detention in the High Court at Dunedin yesterday, five years to the day since the death of 40-year-old Polly Anna Arabella Ruth Riddell.

She overdosed on a variety of substances at the defendant’s Brighton home but he did not call emergency services for an hour.

The victim’s mother, retired district court judge Rosemary Riddell said the outcome of the sentencing was as predictable as it was disappointing.

"It was the law that was imposed. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was justice," she said. "Justice for a life, seven and a-half months’ home detention?

"I don’t think so."

Rosemary Riddell says she felt her late husband and her daughter’s presences in the courtroom....
Rosemary Riddell says she felt her late husband and her daughter’s presences in the courtroom. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Rosemary Riddell described her daughter as "a shy child who grew into an adult alternatively introverted and ferocious".

After years waiting for answers, she still found Longshaw’s behaviour on that day inexplicable.

"You didn’t do the one thing that was needed, one very simple thing.

"All you had to do was pick up the phone and dial 111.

"If you had, she would be alive today," she said.

"Your failure haunts our family. It’s ripped us apart."

That trauma was compounded, she said, when Longshaw turned up to the funeral and laid a baseless claim of assault with police after he was ejected.

Polly Riddell visited the defendant on October 15, 2018.

A family member who spoke to her over the phone that night described her mood as uncharacteristically "flat".

Along with prescription medication, Polly Riddell also took other drugs, including methadone, morphine and MDMA, the court heard.

Though Longshaw did not see her take the illicit substances, he later admitted he had suspicions at the time.

When he became concerned about her state, he ensured her airway was clear but did not call for help.

An hour later, at 5.58pm on October 16, he finally called 111.

It was too late.

I think my partner is dead, Longshaw told them.

Carl Longshaw admitted his negligence after a charge of manslaughter was dropped. PHOTO: PETER...
Carl Longshaw admitted his negligence after a charge of manslaughter was dropped. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
He was right.

A sample of Polly Riddell’s blood showed evidence of a variety of drugs in her system, but a pathologist said she might have survived had appropriate treatment been administered sooner.

Longshaw was originally charged with manslaughter, which would have required the Crown to prove a causative link between his negligence and the victim’s death.

In May though, that was amended to neglect of a vulnerable adult, a charge which did not require evidence of such a direct link.

When recently interviewed by Probation, Longshaw claimed he was an innocent party.

His counsel Andrew Dawson said his client now accepted that was not the case.

He described how the defendant had struggled to come to terms with his guilt because it was not his malicious intent that caused the death of Polly Riddell.

Justice Jonathan Eaton acknowledged that but said it was a case of "gross negligence".

While Crown prosecutor Robin Bates argued Longshaw should be jailed, the judge said the man’s poor mental and physical health would be better managed in the community.

Rosemary Riddell also lost her husband Mike last year, but though it was "terrible" to be there without him, she felt his and their daughter’s presence in the courtroom yesterday.

"One day I’d like to remember Polly simply with love, and not grief," she said.

As for Longshaw — who hobbled slowly through the court with the assistance of a cane — Rosemary Riddell had faith in another kind of judgement.

"I’m content to leave him to God."