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Trauma specialist defends police in Wallace shooting

14 September 2005

A trauma specialist yesterday defended the actions of police officers after the fatal shooting of Steven Wallace five years ago.

During day two of the inquest into Mr Wallace's death, the New Plymouth Coroner's Court heard from Andrew Swain, and evidence that police officers had assisted Mr Wallace after he was shot by Constable Keith Abbott.

The court heard that Sergeant Fiona Prestidge and Constable Jason Dombroski approached and assisted Mr Wallace after he was shot.

Ms Prestidge used a pad from her first aid kit to stop external bleeding from one of Mr Wallace's wounds, and Mr Dombroski told Mr Wallace an ambulance was on the way immediately after the shooting, the court heard.

On Monday, Wallace family lawyer Ron Mansfield criticised the three officers involved in the shooting for ignoring police procedures and failing to provide any first aid.

However, Dr Swain, who has been a specialist for 19 years, said he saw no evidence that police officers had failed to provide adequate first aid care after Mr Wallace was shot.

His opinion was based on reports from hospital staff and paramedics who treated Mr Wallace at the scene of the accident and at Taranaki Base Hospital.

Dr Swain said, reading from the reports, that Mr Wallace was shot at 4.03am, the ambulance was notified at 4.07am and arrived at 4.22am. Ambulance staff resuscitated Mr Wallace three minutes after arriving, but after they had turned him on his back.

It was quite possible that this manoeuvre caused Mr Wallace to stop breathing, although he was resuscitated. He later died in the operating theatre from a bullet wound to his liver, he said.

"I don't believe that any pre-hospital intervention could have saved his life."

Mr Mansfield questioned whether police could have alerted the hospital of the shooting, so that staff could have prepared to treat Mr Wallace, and provide comfort to him.

But Dr Swain said he would not expect any lay person, including police, to notify health authorities, other than call for an ambulance. It was possible to provide comfort, but only if the person was conscious, Dr Swain said.

Lawyer Susan Hughes, acting on behalf of the New Zealand Police Association, said the death of Mr Wallace was preventable.

"I certainly agree that Steven Wallace's death could have been avoided, but it could have been avoided by his actions.

"The constable gave him every opportunity to not be shot," she said.

Superintendent Neville Matthews also gave evidence about general police policy and procedures. It was not specific to the shooting of Mr Wallace.

The inquest continues today.

Michelle Sutton

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