Waitara police shooting of Steven Wallace heading to court again

The legal battle over the fatal police shooting of Steven Wallace in 2000, is not over. (File photo)


The legal battle over the fatal police shooting of Steven Wallace in 2000, is not over. (File photo)

The mother of Waitara police shooting victim Steven Wallace​ is continuing her search for justice, appealing against a High Court ruling that her son had not been unlawfully killed.

A Bill of Rights expert says the High Court decision was significant because the judge found in favour of Raewyn Wallace on issues that applied extra scrutiny to cases where the state has brought about a death.

But on the central issue of whether it was an unlawful killing Raewyn Wallace​ is not giving up, with her lawyer, Graeme Minchin​, confirming he would be filing an appeal against the High Court decision.

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Wallace and her family have fought several legal battles in the years since police constable Keith Abbott​ shot dead Steven Wallace, 23, in the Taranaki town of Waitara in 2000.

The shooting occurred after Wallace became so angry he used a golf club and a baseball bat to attack many windows in the town, including at the police station and the windscreen of an occupied police car.

The Wallace family brought a landmark private prosecution against Abbott in 2002, but it ended with a jury acquitting Abbott of murder, on the grounds of self-defence.

Steven Wallace’s father began the most recent case in 2014, and Raewyn Wallace continued it after her husband died.

An animation prepared for the Wallace family alleging what happened when police shot Steven Wallace in Waitara April 30, 2000

In early August, Justice Rebecca Ellis​ issued her 179-page decision in the High Court confirming that, on the balance of probabilities, Steven Wallace was killed in self-defence. His right not to be deprived of life was not breached, she said.

However, the judge also said the Crown had not conducted an inquiry that met its obligations under the Bill of Rights for a sufficiently independent investigation into Wallace’s death.

The Wallaces previously won a court judgment from the Chief Justice, who said that there was a case for Abbott to answer. After that ruling the Solicitor-General, who oversees Crown prosecutions, should have given reasons for the decision not to prosecute Abbott, Justice Ellis said.

Although Raewyn Wallace did not win all the points in the recent case, it was significant because it provided extra scrutiny where people died in circumstances brought about by the state, such as inmate deaths in custody, said a bill of rights expert, Dr Andrew Butler.

The High Court hearing had been a wide-ranging one but it was imperfect because it looked at events 20 years later, Butler said, describing the delay as unfortunate.

Raewyn Wallace was asked for comment but referred inquiries to Minchin.

In the High Court case, Justice Ellis had remarked on Minchin’s work on the case. He seemed to leave no stone unturned to advance Wallace’s case. In some “quite legally notable ways”, he had partly succeeded, she said.

Ellis said Steven Wallace had shown academic promise and was a talented sportsman. He had started studying at Victoria University but dropped out, returning home to Waitara rather than incur student debt.

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