3 Dec 2009

Truck driver in fatal collision had been drinking, court told

8:29 am on 3 December 2009

A High Court jury has heard the driver of a street sweeping truck that hit and killed a man being chased by police had been drinking earlier in the evening.

Constable Clinton Hill - who is suspended on full pay - is on trial at the High Court in Auckland for the manslaughter of George Harris, who died in 2004.

Mr Hill is also charged with assault and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The court heard that Mr Hill, who was not on duty, had been involved in a scuffle with Mr Harris when they were picked up by the police in the South Auckland suburb of Manukau.

Mr Harris was eventually hit by a truck after he was allegedly chased by Mr Hill.

The truck driver, Semisi Cocker, says he was driving along Great South Road when he saw Mr Hill and Mr Harris running towards the left hand side.

He saw Mr Hill raise his arms before he felt the truck hit. He says he heard the sound it made but thought maybe he had just hit the man's arm.

Mr Cocker said he had watched a football match and drunk up to three cans of beer. He then slept for about four hours before starting work.

He did pass an evidential breath test and said he had not felt affected by liquor or fatigue.

Accused said witness was lying

Earlier on Wednesday Mr Hill's lawyer said a former officer giving evidence in the case was lying to make his client look worse.

Defence lawyer John Haigh, QC, told the court that evidence given by former constable Benson Murphy contradicts an earlier statement he made when the incident took place.

Mr Murphy says that when George Harris was running away from police, Mr Hill, who was off-duty at the time, yelled and swore at him to get in the car.

Mr Haig says Mr Murphy's earlier statement in the case is that the accused did not swear.

He says Mr Murphy has since added an expletive to make his claims look worse.