more than 8 years on ...
Police face new probe into street shooting
Saturday July 05, 2008
On April 30, 2000, Steven Wallace walked down the main street of Waitara in Taranaki, smashing shop windows with a golf club and a baseball bat.
He was shot dead by Senior Constable Keith Abbott who was acquitted of murder but later criticised in a coroner's inquiry. Now - eight years after the shooting - a new independent body in charge of police conduct is investigating the killing.
A new inquiry into the 2000 shooting of Steven Wallace has started.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority is investigating possible misconduct or neglect of duty by the officers involved.
The new authority has reviewed the shooting and found "matters that require further independent investigation".
Authority head Justice Lowell Goddard, QC, has made a symbolic visit to the scene of the shooting on Waitara's main street as part of the 10-month inquiry.
Mr Wallace's family, witnesses and several police officers - included the shooter, Senior Constable Keith Abbott - have been interviewed.
The extensive inquiry into the contentious shooting suggests Justice Goddard is determined that the IPCA will make its mark as an independent civilian oversight of the police, unlike its much-criticised predecessor, the Police Complaints Authority.
Justice Goddard has also visited Ruatoki as part of an inquiry into police actions in the Tuhoe terror raids.
The IPCA is aiming to release its findings on Mr Wallace's shooting in October and police must act on its recommendations - which could include that disciplinary action be taken against officers.
Mr Wallace, 23, had been walking down Waitara's main street breaking shop windows with a golf club and a baseball bat before Mr Abbott killed him with two shots from a pistol.
The IPCA would not go into specifics of its inquiry, saying that it was "looking at everything from when the police were called out" and "questions of misconduct and neglect of duty".
The former authority used police officers to complete its inquiries into Mr Wallace's shootings.
The result of these was never made public because of its practice of not reporting until police investigations, court hearings and a coroner's inquest were completed.
The coroner ruled on Mr Wallace's death in August last year, allowing Justice Goddard to "resume" the inquiry with the IPCA's independent investigators.
Justice Goddard said the eight-year delay was regrettable, and the IPCA had changed its practice of waiting for an inquest.
The authority had reviewed evidence from the Wallace family's unsuccessful private prosecution of Mr Abbott for murder.
And it was taking Coroner Gordon Matenga's ruling into account.
Mr Matenga's criticisms that Mr Abbott and the other officers involved, Constable Jason Dombroski and Sergeant Fiona Prestidge, erred in decision-making and had a lack of leadership were dismissed by Commissioner Howard Broad last year.
Mr Broad said he had "nothing but praise for the officers involved".
Police headquarters declined to comment yesterday on the IPCA inquiry, as did Mr Abbott's lawyer, Susan Hughes, QC.
Police Association president Greg O'Connor criticised the inquiry, saying it was an attempt to "satisfy the unsatisfiable".
Mr O'Connor linked the inquiry to recent criticism of police for being "tentative" before going in to assist fatally shot Manurewa liquor store owner Navtej Singh.
"The only thing police are tentative of is shooting someone because this is what they have to go through," Mr O'Connor said.
The police had "moved on" from Mr Wallace's shooting through "review after review".
"But the system just won't let this go away".
Mr Wallace's mother, Raewyn, hoped the inquiry "gets us the truth".
She was pleased the IPCA was independent and was looking at issues over police actions and procedures raised, but not necessarily addressed, in the private prosecution and the inquest.
"Justice Goddard came to where it happened. She looked and listened. I appreciated that."
STEVEN WALLACE: THE INQUIRIES
April 2000: Senior Constable Keith Abbott shoots Steven Wallace dead.
Police homicide inquiry begins. Police Complaints Authority begins separate inquiry, saying it will not report back until after the coroner has ruled.
June 2000: Police homicide inquiry clears Mr Abbott of criminal charges.
May 2001: Coroner opens inquest, but it is adjourned while the Wallace family take a private prosecution.
December 2002: Jury clears Mr Abbott of murder.
July 2003: Coroner reopens inquest, but it is delayed by legal challenges from Mr Abbott's lawyer.
September 2005: Coroner resumes inquest.
August 2007: Coroner releases findings.
November 2007: Independent Police Conduct Authority formed with new powers and Wallace inquiry gains new impetus.