20 Jul 2020

Steven Wallace shooting case: Police used excessive force, family argues

3:25 pm on 20 July 2020

Police shots that killed a man in Waitara two decades ago have again been criticised as an excessive use of force.

Steven Wallace.

Steven Wallace was shot by police in 2000. Photo: Supplied

In April 2000, Steven Wallace was shot dead by Senior Constable Keith Abbott, who was acquitted of murder after claiming he had been acting in self defence.

Wallace had walked down Waitara's main street using a golf club to smash shop windows, a taxi and then a patrol car with officers inside.

The Wallace family took the private prosecution against Abbott and have now taken a civil claim against police.

The case started last Monday and finished early this afternoon.

Summing up in High Court at Wellington today, the Wallace family's lawyer Graeme Minchin repeated his refrain that police had other options.

"They could have armed themselves for their own protection of others and gone out and cordoned and contained Steven Wallace as best they could," he said.

Minchin questioned the officer's reaction.

"All the witnesses only hear this very short pause - about a second - and so we say that doesn't really constitute a warning shot... he hasn't got time to react."

"Then, we make the same argument that was made in the criminal trial, [too many shots]."

Crown lawyer Peter Gunn earlier defended a contentious police investigation into the shooting.

"There was certainly that testing of the evidence - the ability to cross-examine witnesses at the trial... that helps to reassure I think that there's been a proper process - there's been public scrutiny as well," he said.

Justice Ellis reserved her decision.

She told the court it could be sometime before the written decision was completed.

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