SIX years after the shooting deaths of two Kempsey police officers a NSW court has found the NSW Police Service negligent in not providing adequate training and communications for the officers.
Senior Constables Robert Spears and Peter Addison, both Port Macquarie residents, were gunned down by a drunken John McGowan when they went to investigate a domestic violence complaint at Crescent Head on July 9, 1995.
NSW WorkCover, in January, started proceedings against the NSW Police Service through the NSW Industrial Relations Court over breaches of the Occupational, Health and Safety Act in relation to the deaths of Constables Addison and Spears.
On Wednesday, Justice Barrie Hungerford found that the NSW Police Service failed to provide adequate training and radio equipment.
Justice Hungerford found that the radio communications equipment was inadequate.
In the judgement Justice Hungerford said Senior Constable Spears and Addison were placed at risk of injury in that they could not communicate with other officers and vice versa.
“This created a working environment in which there was a greater risk of physical harm,” he said.
Justice Hungerford said there was evidence that supported the proposition that the officers concerned had not received up-to-date training in the various matters relevant to operational situations.
“Those subject matters, specifically, were weapons handling, tactics in high-risk situations, method of approach to buildings, concealment and the use of lights and torches.
“The very nature of the circumstances as they existed at Crescent Head during the subject incident made relevant the type of training the two officers had not recently received,” Justice Hungerford said.
Justice Hungerford dismissed eight other charges brought against the NSW Police Service by WorkCover relating to firearms, firearm equipment and training and operational duties.
The case was adjourned for a number of weeks to give the Police Service time to prepare mitigating evidence to be presented to Justice Hungerford before he announces the penalty.
On that night in 1995, after talking to a woman complaining of domestic violence threats, Constables Spears and Addison attended McGowan’s house in Walker Street at Crescent Head.
It is believed an altercation occurred between McGowan and the two officers. At some point McGowan produced a modified Ruger 14 rifle and the two officers retreated behind their 4WD.
McGowan then fired a number of shots at
the officers while they sheltered behind their vehicle. Both officers returned fire from their position. A short time later Constables Addison and Spears got into the 4WD.
While Constable Addison radioed that they were in trouble McGowan shot Constable Spears in the head.
Constable Addison then again radioed that an officer was down before retreating across the road and entering a house in a bid to use a telephone to call for help.
After realising the house didn’t have a telephone Constable Addison left the house and exchanged shots with McGowan who was still beside the police vehicle.
A witness stated that then Constable Addison might have emptied his revolver while retreating to the rear of the house he just exited.
For reasons which were not clear, it is believed that Constable Addison attempted to go forward, with an empty gun and his torch shinning, but was shot dead by McGowan .
McGowan then shot himself and was found the next morning slumped on the lawn.