27 Jul 2021

Police Association boss congratulates jury in Epiha trial

From Checkpoint, 5:49 pm on 27 July 2021

Police killer Eli Epiha did try to kill a second officer the day he shot dead Constable Matthew Hunt, according to a jury at his High Court trial.

The jury found him guilty of the attempted murder of Constable David Goldfinch, who he shot four times on a street in west Auckland last year.

Police Association President Chris Cahill told Checkpoint he congratulates the jury.

"What I have learned is juries generally do a damn good job of actually weighing up all the evidence. And we know from history of juries, one of the hardest offences to understand is that of attempted murder, because you've got to get into the mind of the offender.

"So I just congratulate them for the big effort they've put in to come up with what we obviously believe is the right verdict."

It brings some closure, but does not bring back Constable Hunt, Cahill said.

"It does send the message that they're valued, and this jury has spoken for the whole of New Zealand in a way to say that we won't allow someone to carry on like that and not hold them to account. So that actually does send a positive message.

"But [officers] still have to go to work today knowing that Matthew's died. His family is obviously still feeling it, and Dave … I think he gave amazing evidence but it will certainly be something he will have to live with."

Cahill said he was very proud of Goldfinch in court.

"I think he did it incredibly well, and hard though it would have been, to a degree that's also part of that healing process as well."

Goldfinch is not completely back at work, he said. "There's a lot of process to go through and he's got to work through with his family as well of course, so a slow integration is better than just rushing these things."

Epiha's defence in court was simply a case of someone who would not accept responsibility for what he had done, Cahill said.

"There's only one person responsible for what happened that day and that's him. He needs to face up to that.

"I will be very interested to see the message the judge sends. I think it's important that the damage that has been done to New Zealand is recognised in a sense.

"It's not just a police officer's life lost, but there's innocence taken out of New Zealand every time law enforcement is attacked in this way. It actually is an attack on the whole of New Zealand, so we'd be expecting a significant sentence that will really show the effect it has had."

More broadly on the debate of arming police, Cahill said he supported Police Commissioner Andrew Coster's stance.

"He's been more proactive in looking at what we can do to try and make officers safe since this incident. And he's still looking at things, and we're working with him.

"But without a doubt that whole debate is still there that has to be addressed. What is the safest you can do to keep officers, is it a gun on the hip? Or is it specialist patrols back on the street?

"We think firstly the one that can happen quicker is get those specialist highly trained officers out on the street, so they can attend the most high-risk incidents."