19 Dec 2013

Officers disciplined over woman's death

8:46 pm on 19 December 2013

Five Northland officers have been disciplined following the death of a young woman whose pleas for police help were disregarded.

The body of 21-year-old Ashlee Edwards was found under a bridge in Whangarei in July 2012, weeks after she reported breaches of a protection order by former partner James Akuhata. He was later charged with her murder.

The watchdog said the handling of Ms Edwards' complaints was poorly managed and grossly inadequate.

Police files were misplaced or sent to the wrong person; no one responded to her first complaint and, on the second occasion, police warned Mr Akuhata instead of arresting him.

Karen Edwards says she has accepted an apology from police, but is still angry that they failed to protect her daughter.

Northland District commander Russell Le Prou said he fully accepts the authority's findings.

Superintendent Le Prou said officers have been disciplined and changes made to the way police treat complaints about breaches of protection orders. Northland now has more staff and better systems to deal with family violence.

Jodie Harris from Women's Refuge in Whangarei said police normally handle breaches of protection orders extremely well - but the response has to be consistent and offenders arrested. "It's a tragedy that somebody had to die in order for action to be taken."

James Akuhata has been found unfit so far to plead the murder charge after receiving serious head injuries in a prison assault.