Statement from NZ Police
Police have apologised to the family of Diane White and have accepted all of the findings of an Independent Police Conduct Authority report released this morning into the circumstances leading up to her death.
The report into Mrs White’s death on 19 January 2010 at the hands of neighbour Christine Morris – who had earlier escaped from the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre in Hamilton – found Police had the information and the ability to have prevented her death.
Assistant Commissioner Upper North, Allan Boreham, has met Mrs White’s family and apologised on behalf of Police.
“Police clearly failed Diane when she needed us after several individual errors came together on the day that resulted in a situation that had tragic consequences. We are deeply sorry for what happened and I’ve met with her family in person to tell them this. I’ve also told them about a range of things we’ve done in the three years since to prevent a similar situation happening again.”
Mr Boreham says responding to incidents involving people with mental health issues is often a very complex and challenging area for police officers.
“Notwithstanding that, the sequence of events that occurred in Hamilton that day are a tragic reminder that we have to be at our best at all times, even when dealing with what may initially appear to be routine matters. If not, there is always the risk that things can go very wrong – and this is sadly one of those times. We are very sorry about what happened.”
Mr Boreham says Police accept all of the findings outlined in the Authority’s report, and note that its recommendations echo actions already undertaken by Police following its own review of the incident launched immediately afterwards.
“Police reviewed their handling of the incident as soon as it happened and have already initiated many of the actions subsequently identified in today’s IPCA report,” he says.
“While we know that it will not bring Diane back, we want to make sure it does not happen again.”
“Whilst the recommendations outlined in the report are important, the key thing that will stop this happening again is the focus of our people, that needs to be clearly on prevention and victims.”
“It is clear to me reading this report that if staff at the time had a greater focus on the threat to Diane, we could have done more to protect her and this tragedy could have been averted” said Mr Boreham.
Mr Boreham says among the changes that have been introduced since January 2010 are a new Quality Assurance process for Communications Centre staff, improved training, and technical upgrades to the Comms Centres’ systems to provide automatic updates to dispatchers.
Police and the Ministry of Health also last year finalised a Memorandum of Understanding that better defines responsibilities and processes to be followed when dealing with incidents involving mental health patients, and Police have upgraded its Policy on People with Mental Impairments, which sets out steps for returning mental health patients who are reported missing