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Further update: Steven Wallace

20 December 2001

While the government moves to rush through its repressive terrorism legislation with unseemly haste, there has been no urgency whatsoever about implementing Justice Gallen's recommendations to improve the accountability of the Police Complaints Authority - those recommendations were received by Phil Goff last December. The review of the PCA arose because of the public concern about the police shooting of Steven Wallace.

On 6 September a private prosecution for murder was brought against Constable Abbot, the police officer who shot Steven Wallace on 30 April 2000, by Steven's father Jim Wallace. At that time, more than sixteen months after Steven's death, no progress had been made towards justice by the official bodies whose duty it is to investigate the actions of police officers which result in harm or death.

The applications of the lawyers acting for Constable Abbot have added to the sense that police officers are above, rather than accountable to, the law. Their applications to delay the inquest in May and June on the grounds that the inquest may be prejudicial to the interests of the officers involved, and that it would be an abuse of process for the officers to be compelled to give evidence was extraordinary.

Yet the same argument was used in response to the private prosecution - "Our view is that this prosecution is without any foundation and that it would be an abuse of process to issue a summons and require Constable A to submit to a legal process." (Paul Shearer, on behalf of Constable Abbot, reported in 'The Daily News', 11 September 2001).

After hearing of legal arguments, Judge Christopher Harding decided on 21 September that a summons would be issued to Constable Abbot requiring him to appear in the New Plymouth District Court. In November, the start date for the depositions hearing was set as 21 January.

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