Police excuse for prisoner’s death – we didn’t read our emails!

Jai Davis died in Otago Correctional Facility (OCF) three years ago after internally concealing drugs in his rectum. In a previous post, it was revealed that prison management’s reluctance to pay $300 to call out a doctor on the weekend was a factor contributing his death. This wasn’t the only factor.  At the coroner’s inquest yesterday, the Police also came under attack – for not reading emails which could have saved Davis’ life.

Corrections had been monitoring phone calls to Davis by gang members in prison. The calls revealed that Davis was about to turn himself into police (on domestic assault charges) and was told to bring in ‘candy’ – code for prescription drugs.

Corrections warnings to police

Corrections intelligence officer Neil Jones-Sexton told the coroner’s inquiry on Monday that this information was of such significance, he immediately warned the police. He made numerous phone calls to a variety of police personnel advising them that Davis was going to present himself at the Dunedin police station to be arrested – and would be internally concealing drugs. He also sent at least two emails to police along with a synopsis of the calls recorded by Corrections.

The evidence given by Mr Jones-Sexton was corroborated by police intelligence analyst, Rennae Flockton who also testified yesterday. She said there were six or seven staff in the Dunedin intelligence office. There was a warrant out for Davis’ arrest and the analysts were all aware and even discussed the possibility that he might turn up at the police station. When he appeared the next day, she and “other Intel staff members” went and “looked at him through the mirrored glass” and “were commenting as to how he may have the drugs hidden on him to take into OCF.”

The Misuse of Drugs Act

Under Section 13 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, the police have the power to detain on belief of internal concealment. Under Section 13C, they have to call a doctor to conduct an internal examination of a detained person which may include an x-ray.  Police detained Davis and held him in police cells overnight. The next day, they took him to court and then out to the Otago prison. During all this time, they never bothered to call a doctor.  They were lucky he didn’t die in the police cells.

Last year I wrote to the IPCA pointing out that the police were well aware that Mr Davis was suspected of internally concealing drugs when he turned himself in. I asked the IPCA to investigate the failure of the police to use their powers under the Misuse of Drugs Act – which could have saved Mr Davis’ life.  On behalf of the IPCA, Inspector Geoff Jago, made a superficial investigation of the police conduct and decided the police were unaware that Davis had drugs on board.

What the IPCA missed

Jago said that Jones-Sexton only sent two emails about the matter – both on Wednesday 9 February (the day before Davis turned himself in). The first email went to Police Detective Sergeant John Hedges who was head of the Organised Crime Squad in Dunedin. Sent at 9.38am, it read: “We are working on a disclosure on the MM (Mongrel Mob) where they are looking to introduce drugs”.  Further on, the email mentions Davis by name.  At the inquiry yesterday, Sergeant Hedges said he never read this email and wouldn’t have done anything about it, even if he had – because he was too busy.

Jones-Sexton sent the second email at 4.00pm that afternoon to Sergeant Tony Ritchie who was head of the Police Intelligence Unit in Dunedin (where Rennae Flockton worked). Apparently, Sergeant Ritchie knocked off work at 2.00pm and claimed he never read the email till he got back to work a few days later – long after Davis had died. Even if this is true, Rennae Flockton said everyone in the police Intel office already knew what was going on – because Jones-Sexton had told them on the phone.

Excuses by Corrections & Police

There’s absolutely no doubt the police knew Davis was carrying drugs when he turned himself in. They displayed the same callous attitude as Corrections – they never called a doctor to conduct an examination. Corrections excuse was they didn’t want to spend $300 to call out the doctor on the weekend. The Police excuse, backed up by the IPCA, is that they didn’t read their emails.

The reality is that Davis died because staff at both Police and Corrections failed to do their jobs properly. When members of the public fail to take care of vulnerable people in their care, they often get charged with manslaughter. Police took three years to finish their investigation into Jai Davis’ death. In the end, they never charged anyone.


3 thoughts on “Police excuse for prisoner’s death – we didn’t read our emails!

  1. It would appear that the law of the land does not apply to the corrections department or the NZ Police. This does not represent a democracy but appears to follow the same regime as a communist run country. Where is the integrity of the Government to allow this sloppy slap hazard approach to work ethic. We are suppose to trust these departments on a number of accounts, but they continually fall well short.


  2. couldn’t agree more peter. I have seen first hand how people are treated in both OCF and Invercargill prisons and I wouldn’t treat my dog to some of the things I have seen in these places, i am not a violent person and was only in for driving offences but it makes no difference to the staff that treat you all like murderers and gang members. I was very unhappy to hear about Jai as I went to school with him and he was a good guy and didn’t deserve to go that way when they all knew and could have helped him


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