Gobsmacked by report: detective

A prison reform campaigner is calling for the police decision not to prosecute those charged with the care of remand prisoner Jai Davis to be reviewed after internal police emails revealed a ''significantly substandard'' report was used in the decision-making process.

A senior Southern police detective was ''gobsmacked'' by the inadequacies of the report handed to the police legal team tasked with deciding on whether to proceed with prosecution in the case.

Mr Davis (30) was a remand prisoner at the Milburn facility when he died on February 13, 2011, as a result of an overdose of codeine and valium pills he attempted to smuggle internally into the jail.

Coroner David Crerar found a dysfunctional and uncaring culture at the Otago Corrections Facility meant Jai Davis' death went unnoticed for more than five hours after he became unconscious from a drug overdose, and he recommended the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) investigate police handling of the case and the Health and Disability Commissioner investigate the circumstances of Mr Davis' death.

Internal police emails, released under the Official Information Act, show Detective Inspector Steve McGregor apologised to the lawyers charged with determining whether prosecution could proceed in the case and was ''embarrassed'' by the ''substandard level'' of the police report they were provided.

''When the report was first submitted, I was sent a copy, though it was not directed to me,'' Det Insp McGregor said in an email to a recipient whose name was redacted.

''I was gobsmacked by it and responded to CJ [Detective Senior Sergeant Colin Blackie] about the substandard level of the report and suggested he recover it and resubmit it.

''It was from those discussions that I ascertained (i) it was not him who did the final report and (ii) he had prewarned you it was going to be substandard. I have to say, given the history of this case, I was again gobsmacked by this approach.

''It should have been recovered and redone and I have discussed this matter with [then district commander] Superintendent [Andrew] Coster.''

An email to then-area commander Greg Sparrow, showed Det Insp McGregor's displeasure with the officer in charge of the investigation Det Snr Sgt Blackie's handling of the report.

''I began review the report that night but didn't complete it,'' the email said.

''There is no point in trying to sugarcoat it, the report was substandard on a variety of fronts.

''I contacted CJ the next day and raised my concerns ... He ignored my advice and did not recover the report and redo it to an appropriate standard.''

The emails revealed Det Snr Sgt Blackie had not completed the report to the standard he would have liked due to his workload - including homicide investigations - and delegated responsibility for completing the report to another police officer.

Det Insp McGregor said he did not believe the quality of the report reflected the quality of the investigation, but the ''poor standard'' of the report was raised as a risk at a police managers meeting.

Another email revealed Det Insp McGregor apologised to one of the legal team tasked with reviewing the report.

''I spoke with [name redacted] this morning about the ongoing concerns you have raised about the standard of reporting and presentation of the case. I apologise unreservedly on behalf of the district,'' the email said.

A Southern district police spokesman told the Otago Daily Times that ''while the initial flow of information was lacking in this case, the legal advisers were fully informed with the relevant information and based their decision not to prosecute on this''.

But prison reform campaigner Roger Brooking said police were trying to ''save their arses''.

''They completely blew the thing,'' he said.

''It's a bloody shambles, quite frankly.''

As a result of the released emails, Mr Brooking had filed another complaint with the IPCA and hoped to see those he held responsible brought to justice.

''They [police] completely missed the fact that this was about the failure to provide the necessaries of life,'' he said.

He was concerned that the emails indicated police were only assessing charging one person and on a charge of manslaughter.

''Nobody called the doctor - that's clearly a failure to provide the necessaries of life,'' he said.

He believed witnesses at the inquest had lied to the coroner and the released emails were ''a bit of a revelation''.

An IPCA spokeswoman said the authority had not yet received the complaint, but ''when we do, we will consider it in the normal way''.

A Health and Disability Commissioner spokeswoman said the commissioner had made no decision on whether to investigate the handling of Mr Davis' care.

Mr Davis' mother, Victoria Davis, said despite the nature of the emails, she was pleased with the work of Det Snr Sgt Blackie; saying he was ''very professional and very supportive''.

She would continue to fight for justice for her son, she said.

''I'm just so frustrated,'' she said.

''I'm not going away.''

She wanted to bring those she held responsible for the death of her son to justice.

''It's about as bad as you can get and they have got plenty of evidence to show it wasn't only the guards that had no duty of care to my son,'' she said.

''These guys are in there ... to have their freedom taken away, not their lives.''

timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

 

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