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Trial starts for three Taranaki police officers charged with manslaughter of person in custody

The High Court manslaughter trial of three police officers in New Plymouth started today.

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1 NEWS reporter Kate Nicol-Williams filed this report. Source: 1 NEWS

All officers have pleaded not guilty to causing the death of a 55-year-old Hawera man who was arrested as a result of a family harm incident and several hours later, was found unresponsive in a police cell.

Allen Ball was arrested in a highly intoxicated state near midnight on May 31, 2019.

The argument from the Crown is that the officers were grossly negligent in their legal duty of care for Ball, a vulnerable person in custody, particularly in failing to provide the medical treatment that would have kept him alive.

During a routine check, one of the officer’s found Ball unresponsive and CPR was performed by police and emergency services before he was pronounced dead shortly before 3am on June 1.

Today Justice Susan Thomas said she expected the trial will take four weeks.

A jury of 12 people has been selected and the Crown has begun its opening arguments.

Crown prosecutor Cherie Clarke said Ball had drunk a litre of bourbon that night and police noted that he had mentioned suicide.

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The charges relate to the death of a 55-year-old man in a police cell in 2019. Source: 1 NEWS

She alleges Ball was unresponsive when he arrived at the police station and should have been taken to hospital at that point.

"It ultimately took six people to carry Mr Ball into the Hawera Police Station," Clarke said.

"Once placed into the cell, he was placed onto the floor and put in the recovery position. Mr Ball continued to snore but he did not respond to pain compliance techniques and he did not wake."

Clarke argues officers chose to ignore a computer alert on the police monitoring system that advised for hospital treatment and made no significant or serious attempt to properly assess his health and wellbeing in the next two hours.

The Crown said a toxicity report showed Ball had alcohol, tramadol and codeine in his system, calling his death effectively a drug and alcohol overdose that he would have survived if the appropriate medical care was provided.

The trial continues.