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Naitoko family intend to sue police

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New Zealand News | Tuesday April 3 2012 12:01

Naitoko family intend to sue police

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The family of slain courier driver Halatau Naitoko intends to sue police over his death.

The 17-year-old was fatally caught in the crossfire while police were pursuing gunman Stephen McDonald on the Northwestern Motorway in 2009.

Lawyer Colin Pidgeon QC says papers will be filed seeking monetary compensation for the Naitoko family, under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

He says the action will rely on the provision of the Right to Life, which has never been used before to sue in New Zealand, although it's been used successfully overseas.

Mr Pidgeon says the family is prepared to settle outside of court, but in the meantime is preparing to file legal papers as soon as possible.

"The death of Halatau actually destroyed the operation of their small courier business so that they feel compensation is entirely appropriate."

Mr Pidgeon says the Independent Police Conduct Authority report out today into the incident is extremely critical of the whole police operation.

The IPCA report has brought some comfort to his family.

The IPCA has concluded the death was a tragic outcome of a rare combination of events, and that there was no criminality involved in the shooting.

PDF: Read the full IPCA report

Family spokesman Peter Sykes says the report has also answered Halatau's mother's question about what exactly happened to her son, the moment he was shot.

"Basically he died instantly and that's something that parents always want to know, that there was no pain, there was nothing that could have been done, should have been done."

Mr Sykes says the incident was more to do with systems failure, rather than individual mistakes by police.

Halatau Naitoko's mother is hoping to meet with the officer who shot her son now an IPCA report into his accidental death has been released.

Ivoni Fuimaono says she first wrote to the officer on the first anniversary of her son's death - but hasn't had a response.

She says she's not angry with Officer A84.

"I wish that we could sit down and talk. I cannot say straight to number 84 I forgiven him until we sit down."

Ms Fuimaono says she first wrote to the AOS member, known as Officer A84, requesting to meet them on the first anniversary of her son's death.

"I was hoping that A84 would personally write a note or a letter back to me and say I'm sorry, I can't, I do not want to see you, but no."

Ms Fuimaono says she still has questions she wants answered.

She is also questing the stand down period for the two AOS officers who fired shots during the incident.

"They went back to work 11 days after the incident and they were both involved in a call out on the 3rd of February."

Ms Fuimaono is however, relieved to learn from the report that her son died instantly.

Meanwhile the Police Association is emphasising officers were justified in shooting at an armed gunman on the Northwestern Motorway, which resulted in the accidental death of Halatau Naitoko.

An independent report into the incident says police did not break the law, but there were major system breakdowns in how they handled their pursuit of Stephen McDonald.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor says anyone experienced in firearms will know that sometimes, targets are not hit.

"The important point was they were justified in shooting. Both officers were justified in firing the shots they did, unfortunately they missed."

Mr O'Connor says the entire incident was the worst possible scenario in policing.

AUDIO: Police Association president Greg O'Connor talks to Danny Watson

Police say they accept without reservation the findings and recommendations of a new report into Mr Naitoko's death.

Assistant Commissioner Allan Boreham says police have put in place new training measures for dealing with armed offenders.

"We've brought in simulator training, this is in a very safe environment, we're able to as best as possible recreate the type of event that happened on the motorway that day and have staff practice dealing with it."

Allan Boreham says police deeply regret the accidental death of Mr Naitoko.

Photo: Halatau Naitoko's mother Ivoni Fuimaono (NZ Herald)

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