Monday, August 26, 2013

Mother fuming with police over compo announcement - TVNZ

Ms Halatau speaks to media (Source: ONE News)

Ms Halatau speaks to media - Source: ONE News

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The mother of a teenager accidentally shot dead by police says she feels "humiliated" after officers breached an agreement.

Halatau Naitoko, a new father and courier driver, died after getting caught in a crossfire as police chased a drug-fuelled suspect down Auckland's northwestern motorway in January 2009. The identity of the shooter has never been made public.

Yesterday police announced the family would get a total of $225,000 in compensation including $100,000 already paid shortly after the 17-year-old's death.

Mr Naitoko's mother Ivoni Fuimaono is considering her options after police revealed details of the agreement despite the two parties signing documents agreeing that the earlier payment be confidential. Ms Fuimaono had not told anyone in her family and said the revelations had caused "distress".

She had also promised to never to reveal the name of her son's shooter, but says she might break her promise after police embarrassed her in front of the country, Fairfax reported.

"As soon as they started talking I was going to get up and walk out," Ms Fuimaono told Fairfax. "I was humiliated."

Ms Fuimaono says police "betrayed" her when she had played by the rules by not telling anyone the information she knew.

"Police have asked me to keep the identity of the shooter confidential. They told me not to reveal his name. So what if I came out and told everyone who the shooter is? How would they feel?"

Police made her sign documents promising not to reveal the name, and if she did she could go to jail for three months, the report said.

"I have never told anyone who the shooter is. Not my parents. Even my own children don't even know who he is. I have to keep it away from my family," Ms Fuimaono said.

Ms Fuimaono's lawyer Colin Pidgeon said his client had been placed in a very difficult position.

The announcement was only supposed to mention the $225,000 figure, not a breakdown of the other payments.

Ms Fuimaono's lawyer Colin Pidgeon, speaking on Radio New Zealand, said he would be lodging a complaint with the police this morning.

"I understand from Ivoni that she had been told not to tell anyone including her family, including her lawyer, that the payment had been made and she had signed something to that effect," Pidgeon said.

Police in announcing there had been an earlier payment yesterday had breached the terms of the settlement agreement, he told Radio New Zealand.

"Unfortunately by revealing this earlier payment it has caused a bit of stress amongst the wider family who thought they should have been told.''

Mr Pidgeon said Ms Fuimaono was in tears about the outcome last night and would have to consider whether she would now accept the payment.

He said he would write a letter this morning to police but he was prepared to take the case to court to sue for damages if an agreement had been breached.

Ms Fuimaono had said yesterday it was extremely difficult to put a figure on the value of her son's life but the money would go a long way to helping the family, especially Mr Naitoko's partner and baby.

"I think it will be a life-change," Ms Fuimaono said.

A police spokesperson told Radio New Zealand that the last thing police wanted to do was upset or cause embarrassment to Ms Fuimaono.

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report into Mr Naitoko's death said events that led to the shooting could have been stopped much earlier if police had used better communication and tactical control.

The findings described a litany of errors, mainly involving police policy and command structures, but exonerated the officers who fired the shots that accidentally killed Mr Naitoko.

Mr Naitoko was shot when police were pursuing gunman Stephen McDonald, who stole a car, drove through a police cordon and led officers on an extended chase through Auckland.

McDonald fired at the police Eagle helicopter and, after crashing his stolen car, he left the vehicle on the northwestern motorway.

He was later convicted and sentenced to 13 years jail after admitting 23 charges, including firing at police, possessing a firearm, aggravated robbery and unlawfully getting into a motor vehicle.

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