Taranaki cops on trial for manslaughter ignored advice to hospitalise inmate despite 'extreme' intoxication — witness

On the night Allen Ball died in a Taranaki jail cell, at least one officer had considered him to be affected by alcohol to an "extreme" degree, a jury heard today at the trial of three officers accused of his manslaughter. 

CCTV footage from Hāwera Police Station. Source: 1 NEWS

The Crown is continuing to show the CCTV footage from Hāwera Police Station, where 55-year-old Ball died in the early hours of June 1, 2019, after being arrested as the result of a family harm incident around 11.30pm.

He spent more than two hours on a cell floor before police decided Ball needed medical treatment. They then performed CPR and called for an ambulance.

Ball was pronounced dead shortly before 3am.

The Crown alleges Ball was unresponsive from the time the police car he was in arrived at the station and should have been taken to Hāwera Hospital then.

Defence lawyers for the accused said in their opening addresses that the officers’ actions don’t amount to a breach of their legal duty and they shouldn’t be held criminally responsible for manslaughter.

Today, Crown prosecutor Cherie Clarke questioned Detective Sergeant Byron Reid on the CCTV footage and how the National Intelligence Application computer system used for processing people in police custody works.

Reid was tasked with analysing the CCTV footage from the night Ball died and creating a transcript of what he believes has been said by staff from when there is audible speech heard in the recording.

He told the High Court he spent around 60 hours analysing the footage.

Reid told Clarke that one of the accused entered into the computer processing system that Ball was affected by alcohol to an "extreme" degree.

He said that after the "extreme" judgement is selected, a pop-up notification will appear that states "if the detainee has been affected by alcohol to an extreme measure, consideration should be made whether hospitalisation is required".

He also said a comment was entered that Ball was "very 1k [drunk], asleep on floor".

Reid said when it came to making a judgement on the level of consciousness of the arrested person, a computer system entry of "partially responsive" would correspond with a following alert of "arrange for the person to be taken to hospital".

A computer system entry of "unresponsive – does not respond to any stimuli" would be followed with a pop-up message saying "immediate hospitalisation is required".

He said an officer needs to click "OK" on the alert or cross out of the window to proceed with the evaluation.

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Ball was judged as needing frequent monitoring which requires at least five checks by police an hour.

Reid said it was “very important” that checks were logged in the computer system, “particularly when talking about frequent and constant checks” to show they’ve been done.

Ball can be heard snoring in the CCTV footage played in court today.

Earlier in the trial, defence lawyers questioned the senior officer in Hāwera at the time of the incident, Senior Sergeant Kyle Davie, on how much training the officers received in monitoring people that had been arrested.

“There’s no face-to-face training of that staff in custody management and care, is there?” defence lawyer Susan Hughes asked.

“No, there’s not, to the best of my knowledge,” Davie said.

He also gave evidence that, depending on the circumstances, an ambulance may be called for a heavily intoxicated person or “in some situations it may just require taking them straight through to hospital".

Later, he told the defence he agreed that leaving a drunk person to sleep off their intoxication was not uncommon.

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The Crown has said all defendants had received a notification that Ball had threatened to commit suicide before he was arrested.

Crown prosecutor Clarke stated alcohol, codeine and tramadol was found in his system.

She alleged that his death was effectively an overdose that could have been prevented if police weren’t grossly negligent in their duty of care to Ball, a vulnerable person in custody.

The defence has said officers believed Ball was drunk and only knew he had consumed alcohol.

The trial continues. Justice Susan Thomas is overseeing the proceedings.