Christchurch fatal police pursuit: Victims husband rejects Independent Police Conduct Authority ruling

The husband of a man killed by a fleeing driver in Christchurch says police were not at fault despite findings from the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Police should not have initiated the pursuit that resulted in the death of Kenneth McCaul, the IPCA has found

McCaul’s husband Owen Fraser told Chris Lynch on Newstalk ZB that he does not agree with the report.

“I don’t agree with it. The police weren’t in the wrong, it was the driver who wouldn’t stop who’s in the wrong.

“I can see that they’re trying to make sure the police stick to the rules and give up on a chase at a certain time but what are you going to do? Let this guy go wild around the city? No way, it’s not their fault at all.”

Fraser said he is handling the lead up to the one year anniversary of McCaul’s death ‘okay’ and he misses him.

McCaul, 64, died on October 22 last year after a car fleeing police – driven by 17-year-old Jayden Richard Breakwell – crashed into the parked vehicle McCaul was sleeping in.

He was driving to work early to secure a car park and had planned to sleep in his car before starting his shift at Christchurch Hospital.

Breakwell was charged with manslaughter and reckless driving causing injury and sentenced to two years and eight months in prison in the Christchurch High Court in December.

In the IPCA’s decision, released today, it said not only should the officers not have commenced the pursuit but that there were multiple occasions when the pursuit should have been abandoned.

It also found that the pursuit controller in the police communications centre did not formulate or communicate an adequate plan to bring the pursuit to an end.

“The authority believes that the circumstances of this pursuit highlight the assistance pursuit controllers would gain from the greater use of technology to give access to accurate and comprehensive “real time” location and speed data,” it said.

The pursuit lasted for about four and a half minutes and travelled approximately 7.7 kilometres in areas of the CBD and suburbs of Christchurch.

The fleeing vehicle passed through eight controlled intersections on red lights and at speeds up to 137kmh in a 50kmh zone, and 100kmh in a 30kmh zone.

Just before 4am on October 22 2019, a police patrol was travelling along Main North Road and saw a Toyota Caldina stop at the intersection with Grassmere St.

The officers were suspicious of the car so began following it as it drove away, using an inside bus lane to pass a van.

The driver of the police car signalled the driver to stop by activating lights and siren and when the Toyota failed to stop, commenced a pursuit.

One officer attempted to spike the tyres of the fleeing Toyota relatively early in the pursuit but the spikes malfunctioned.

The pursuit ended when the fleeing driver drove through a red light at the intersection of Glandovey and Idris Roads and collided with another car, killing the driver and sole occupant who was McCaul.

Authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said: “In the circumstances, the risk to the public of police pursuing the Toyota at speed and through multiple red lights was without question greater than the risk of letting it go and making inquiries later to locate the registered owner or driver.

“This risk was ultimately borne out by the tragic death of Mr McCaul, an innocent member of the public on his way to work.”

Police have accepted the findings of the IPCA.

“The death of Mr McCaul, an innocent member of the public, was an absolute tragedy which devastated his husband, family, friends and colleagues,” said Canterbury district commander Superintendent John Price.

“I know that the coming week, marking the first anniversary of Mr McCaul’s death, will be an incredibly difficult time for his loved ones and my heart goes out to them.”

“The decision whether or not to pursue a fleeing driver is one of the most complex, difficult and serious decisions police staff face. In this instance, the decisions made – both by the fleeing driver and by police staff – had the most tragic consequence,” he said.

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