Acquitted of manslaughter, it is still far from clear whether three Taranaki police officers charged in relation to Allen Balls death will ever return to the force.
Following a little more than three hours of deliberation, the verdict in the case of Ball’s death was delivered just before 5pm on Thursday to resounding gasps of relief.
It can now be revealed the officers were Corey Steven Waite, Craig Michael Longworth, and Sandra Ilene Shaw.
Ball, 55, died of codeine, tramadol and alcohol toxicity in a cell at the Hwera Police Station on June 1, 2019. The three officers were accused of failing to provide him with the care he needed while in custody.
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Following the verdicts, Police Association president Chris Cahill said he was not sure whether the three would return to policing duties.
There is a lot of water under the bridge and they have got to work through their individual situations and there is a bit to go through first.
They really just want to get back to their families and really just take it in.
President of the NZ Police Association Chris Cahill said it was not clear if the officers would return to the force.
Cahill said that while pleased with the verdicts, the officers had asked him to extend their deepest sympathies to the family of Ball.
They were devastated from the night he died and continuously. And obviously while they are relieved at the result and the verdict, it does not change the fact they know a family has lost a loved one.
That still hurts them as people.
Sandra Shaw greets friends and family outside of court in New Plymouth on Thursday.
Cahill said the entire process had devastated the three officers and their families, and moving forward they still had a lot to work through to get through this.
They will continue to struggle for some time.
Cahill said he mostly agreed with the criticisms made of police training, which were heard during the trial.
The reality is the training is not good enough, we have been pointing that out for some time. The [Independent Police Conduct Authority] IPCA has reported it in previous reports. Police need to take a good hard look at their training out of this.
Detective Superintendent Dave Lynch said he respected the decision of the jury.
Detective Superintendent Dave Lynch acknowledged it had been a difficult time for Balls family as well as the police investigation team, which he was part of.
The jury had heard all the evidence and made its decision, which Lynch said he and the investigation team respected.
Lynch would not comment on claims there were systemic failures in the training and environment provided to the officers by the New Zealand Police on the night of Balls death.
We have still got an IPCA investigation and a coroners inquest to go, so I am not prepared to comment on any of those issues at the moment.
Taranaki police officers Sandra Shaw, Corey Waite and Craig Longworth leave court after being found not guilty of the manslaughter of Allen Ball.
Before the verdicts were delivered, the officers were visibly emotional and held one another as they stood in the dock.
Justice Susan Thomas acknowledged it was a stressful and emotional time, and asked supporters to remain calm as the verdicts were delivered but as they were successively read out, the reaction from the packed gallery grew louder.
Sandra Shaw, Craig Longworth and Corey Waite were overcome with emotion at the verdict.
Deep sobs rang out from family and friends of the officers, while Balls family appeared devastated.
A woman, known to be Ball’s daughter, immediately stood and left the courtroom, while Balls three siblings, who travelled from Australia for the final week of the three-week trial, sat still and quiet, as tears noticeably welled.
Shaw, Longworth and Waite looked elated as they embraced one another before turning to their respective lawyers with whom they each shared a hug.
Outside court, the three officers ignored the medias request for comment. Their lawyers Susan Hughes QC, Andrew Laurenson and Kylie Pascoe also declined to speak.
Allen Balls death has been the subject of a three-week manslaughter trial in which the accused were three Taranaki police officers.
The trial in the High Court at New Plymouth examined the death of Allen Ball at the Hwera Police Station on June 1, 2019.
The jury heard from nearly 30 Crown witnesses while evidence was not called by defence.
A raft of information was digested, including surveillance footage showing an unresponsive Ball being carried into the station by five officers and a civilian, to then be left to lay on the cell floor in his underwear.
Officers periodically checked on him while carrying on with paperwork.
Allen Ball died in a cell at the Hwera Police Station on June 1, 2019.
The accuseds initial police interviews were played to the court, and evidence was given on police computer systems, the police history of managing people in custody and the training the accused undertook to join the force.
The jury heard of the various entries made into the police system regarding Balls detainment, including nine registered checks and alerts that would have appeared recommending his hospitalisation.
Among the other witnesses called, Balls partner, Stacey Whitmore, gave evidence, as did other officers on duty that evening.
The jury, which dropped to 11 members on the second day, travelled to Hwera Police Station to view the space.
Crown prosecutor Cherie Clarke said the three officers were grossly negligent in their duty of care, which contributed to the death of Allen Ball.
The Crown said the officers were grossly negligent in their duty of care to Ball.
They made no significant or serious attempt to assess his health after he was arrested and detained about 11.30pm on May 31, 2019, for the alleged assault of Whitmore.
Ball had expressed suicidal thoughts prior to his arrest, and ingested a large quantity of prescription medication and alcohol. He was pronounced dead in the cell by a paramedic at 2.53am.
The Crown said Ball was unconscious and should have been taken to Hwera Hospital.
Ball died of codeine, tramadol and alcohol toxicity. Experts have said in evidence he would have, or likely would have, survived the overdose had he received medical care.
In summing up the case Justice Thomas told the jury they would have to rely on their collective common sense when it came to reaching a verdict.
She said the police systems and training were pertinent to the case, and it was important to understand what the officers knew at the time
Hindsight is a wonderful thing …, she said.
The jury was given a series of questions they needed to work through to reach their verdicts, such as whether the standard of care expected of a reasonable police officer was to seek medical assistance for Ball in the circumstances at the time.
Also included in the question trail was whether each officer was grossly negligent, which ranged from mere inadvertence to deliberate recklessness. However, the Crown did not have to prove recklessness.
Justice Thomas asked the jury to dismiss any prejudice they may have in this case, whether that be against Ball or against the police.
Defence lawyer Susan Hughes QC said her client had made a mistake but was not a criminal.
The defence argued the officers thought Ball was a sleeping drunk. They all admitted they made a mistake but they were not criminals, defence said.
Hughes said her client would not have ignored the need to take Ball to hospital had she seen that need.
Why would she risk a career she was so justifiably proud of to treat Mr Ball so callously?
She admits that a mistake was made that night.
Her experience told her that many a drunk some sleep, some snore but all get up in the morning to go to court. She saw Mr Ball as no different.
Defence lawyer Andrew Laurenson said his client thought Allen Ball was simply drunk and asleep.
Laurenson, representing another of the officers, told the jury all three had thought that he [Ball] would be OK and would wake up in the morning with nothing more than a bad headache.
It is certainly not a situation of him being inattentive. He is just not that sort of man. He is the one you want at your back.
Laurenson also said the officers had been let down by their training.
Defence lawyer Kylie Pascoe said her client was inadequately trained for the job.
Pascoe said her client, who had the least experience of the three officers, was ill-equipped to deal with the custody management of Ball.
She said Balls death was the result of systemic failures, not the gross negligence of her client.
The training given to recruits by New Zealand Police was inadequate and he was still collecting on-the-job experience, she said.
Her client had turned to his seniors for guidance at every turn on the night of Balls death.

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