A police officer has been sacked, the High Court has been told, after video showed him throwing a young dad to the ground then punching him in the jaw.
The officer’s dismissal was revealed in the High Court by lawyer Mark Short, who is representing Aue Inangaro Tamariki Vakatini.
Initially, police accused Vakatini of threatening and assaulting an officer and smashing the side of a police car; they arrested and charged him and put out a press release highlighting the dangers faced by police.
However, Vakatini and his family spoke to Cook Islands News, alleging a police officer had punched him in the jaw without warning – and subsequently, mobile phone video footage emerged, confirming that account.
It showed Vakatini was pushed to the ground after he was handcuffed, before a uniformed police officer punched him forcefully on the side of the jaw.
Nonetheless, Vakatini is still facing charges. Mark Short argues the charges against his client should be dropped.
And he is demanding police covers the young man’s medical costs, after his broken jaw had to be wired.
“It is unfair for a client to pay for something as a result of police incompetency. I want his matter to be dealt with properly. I don’t want him to pay $10-$15,000 for a jury trial when the wrong person is charged,” Short said.
The assault is alleged to have taken place in September outside the Raro Fried Chicken car park, when Vakatini was talking to his wife and young daughter.
Police charged the 26-year-old dad with assault on a police officer – but Vakatini was released from police cells after a weekend in the cell – missing out on Father’s Day – with a broken jaw that he said was caused by a police punch.
Short told Justice of the Peace John Whitta that video footage showing the police officer assaulting his client was available. “I understand the officer has been terminated and the officer will appeal his termination,” he said.
Other police officers have been called as witnesses, to confirm what happened to Vakatini. Short said he has asked police to review the case based on new evidence and he needed a response.
Police spokesman Trevor Pitt had earlier stated that there were two investigations running- a criminal investigation and a Professional Standards investigation.
Yesterday, police could not confirm if any action had been taken, saying the officer in question was on leave overseas.
JP Whitta adjourned the matter to January 30.