A Whakatane police officer who used pepper spray on a 10-year-old girl and her mother acted carelessly, but not intentionally, the police watchdog has found.
In September last year, police pulled a driver over after he failed to stop. He allegedly refused to cooperate and repeatedly raised Māori sovereignty issues, and one of the officers pepper sprayed him before putting him in handcuffs.
The child's mother then laid a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority accusing the officer of deliberately spraying the man, herself and the 10 year old.
The IPCA released its report today, finding the officer's use of the spray in a confined space, and in the circumstances, was careless.
Its chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, said he accepted the girl was badly affected by the use of the spray, but it wasn't intentional.
He said the officer didn't properly consider the consequences of using the spray - and a powerful one at that - and the innocent passengers also in the car.
Court proceedings prevented the report from being released earlier, in September.
Whakatane Area Commander Inspector Kevin Taylor said they again apologised for the distress caused to the girl and her mother.
However, Mr Taylor said the situation could have been avoided, had the driver given the police his details to begin with.