Police officer should have been criminally investigated over fatal chase - IPCA

An Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report into police actions after a fatal high speed chase has found a criminal investigation should have been initiated into the officer's driving.

In October 2017 Prushya Chaichumphon was caught driving his Volkswagen Golf through Auckland at 133 km/h in an 80 km/h speed limit zone.

When police pursued him, he fled instead of stopping, heading along the North Western Motorway. He reached speeds up to 160 km/h before he crashed into a tree in St Lukes, killing two of his passengers and injuring two others.

The IPCA found that the officer's speed while giving chase was not justified, was excessive, and the pursuit should have been abandoned.

Police say they accept the decision, but blame Chaichumphon for causing the deaths of Sharina Storm Meuli, 25, and Connor Talaimanu, 29.

"There is no doubt that police could and should have done things differently that night and in the subsequent process, just as the fleeing driver involved should have made a different choice," says Police Assistant Commissioner (Response and Operations) Tusha Penny.

"This was an absolute tragedy which could have been avoided had the fleeing driver chosen to stop when signalled by Police."

Chaichumphon was sentenced last week to three years in prison over the crash, and has been disqualified from driving for four years. Mr Talaimanu's father, Andrew Talaimanu, told Newshub that Chaichumphon used his car as a "weapon of death".

The IPCA also found the officer's driving should have been criminally investigated. However the statute of limitations means a retroactive prosecution is not an option.

Asst Cmmr Penny says Police know they "could have done better", but defends the decision not to charge the officer.

"On this occasion police determined that that the evidential test was not met for a charge of either dangerous or reckless driving as the evidence was not sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction in court," she says.

"We rightly hold ourselves to a high standard and we will not hesitate to hold our staff to account under the law like any other member of the public."