NSW Police Appeal to Withhold Documents in Krista KachdeathInquiry

NSW police are appealing to the Supreme Court to withhold sensitive documents from the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (Lecc) in their investigation into the death of Krista Kach. Kach was fatally wounded by a police bean bag round during a 10-hour standoff in Newcastle in September 2023.

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NSW Police Appeal to Withhold Documents in Krista KachdeathInquiry

NSW Police Appeal to Withhold Documents in Krista KachdeathInquiry

The New South Wales (NSW) police are appealing to the Supreme Court to withhold sensitive documents from the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (Lecc) in their investigation into the death of Krista Kach. The 47-year-old woman was fatally wounded by a police bean bag round during a 10-hour standoff in Newcastle in September 2023.

Why this matters: The outcome of this appeal could set a precedent for police transparency and accountability in cases involving the use of force, particularly against vulnerable individuals. It may also influence the development of policies and procedures for police responses to mental health crises and other high-risk situations.

The documents in question include a manual on the use of "less-lethal" force that spans beyond bean bag rounds and personnel logs containing the names of officers involved in the incident. The police argue that disclosing the full manual could reveal methods used by law enforcement agencies overseas, while releasing the names in the logs could lead to reprisals against the officers.

During the standoff, Kach was Tasered twice by police before going into cardiac arrest after being hit by the bean bag round, which punctured her body and impacted her heart. Police claim Kach had earlier threatened officers with an axe. Her family has described the police response as "disturbing and heartbreaking" to a "vulnerable person who had been told that she would soon be homeless."

In a hearing at the Supreme Court, David Hume, lawyer for the NSW police, stated, "We did invite Lecc to undertake not to on-disclose the information to parliament and that was refused." The police have offered to provide a redacted version of the personnel logs to the watchdog. James Emmett SC, council for the attorney general, argued, "The Lecc is a body set up to carry on a degree of oversight ... It is clearly equipped by parliament to make that judgment."

NSW Court of Appeal President Julie Kathryn Ward questioned the necessity of the surveillance logs, stating, "If the surveillance logs are telling the story of what's been happening during the particular incident, siege or the like, I am struggling with how one could have a proper monitoring of that incident response without access to something like that."

The standoff and subsequent death of Krista Kach has raised concerns about the use of "less-lethal" force by police, particularly in situations involving individuals experiencing mental health crises or other vulnerabilities. As the Lecc continues its investigation, the outcome of the NSW police's appeal to the Supreme Court could have significant implications for transparency and oversight in law enforcement conduct cases.