7 May 2010

Officers involved in fatal Christchurch pursuit cleared

8:27 am on 7 May 2010

Two officers involved in a vehicle pursuit that led to the death of a Christchurch teenager have been cleared of misconduct by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Paige Patricia Timothy, 16, died of head injuries in the crash in 2008.

Michael Norton, who was 16, was driving a stolen car which reached speeds up to 170km/h before it crashed into a tree.

Paige Timothy, who was in the front seat, was killed and a back seat passenger was badly injured.

The father of the back seat passenger asked why the pursuit was not abandoned when the stolen car was being driven at speed on the wrong side of the road with no lights.

The authority found that the officers should have abandoned the chase when speeds of 150km/h were reached in an 80km/h zone.

The IPCA's report says there were clear risk factors and the pursuit should have been called off, but the actions of the officers did not amount to misconduct or neglect of duty.

One of the officers has since had driver training, while the other has left the police for unrelated reasons.

Norton is serving a five-year jail sentence for manslaughter.

Canterbury Area Commander Superintendent Dave Cliff says police around the world are trying to identify the safest way to manage pursuits.

Between 2003 and 2008, 24 deaths were associated with police pursuits. There have seven deaths in the past six months alone.

The national manager for road policing, Superintendent Paula Rose, says there is a high threshold for beginning a chase, and an offence must have taken place. But she says the police have been conducting a review of pursuit policy.