Prosecutors have told the NSW Supreme Court during a facts briefing that Senior Constable Kristian White went against police protocol and said “Nah, bugger it” before fatally tasering older dementia patient Clare Nowland.
Crown prosecutors attended court on Tuesday and allege the actions of Constable White, 33, were “a grossly disproportionate response and excessive use of force”, according to a statement of alleged police facts.
Constable White faces charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault after he tasered 95-year-old aged care resident Clare Nowland at Cooma’s Yallambee Lodge on May 17.
Ms Nowland was described to be frail and appeared to be experiencing behaviours and psychological symptoms of dementia while wandering the facility with her walking and a serrated knife. After unsuccessfully trying to disarm her, staff called paramedics and police when Constable White and his colleague arrived. Refusing to drop the knife and slowly walking towards the officers with her walker, Constable White tasered her, causing her to fall and fracture her skull on the way down.
Ms Nowland died at Cooma Base Hospital a week later.
In court, prosecutors alleged Constable White had asked Ms Nowland four times to stop walking before he said “Nah, bugger it” and deployed his Taser. Ms Nowland had stopped walking towards police and was looking at Mr White’s colleague when she suffered the blow, prosecutors also allege.
Police allege when Constable White and his colleague were called to Yallambee Lodge, staff weren’t able to get in contact with Ms Nowland’s family before calling for help and that she had walked into three residents’ rooms with the knife. She also allegedly had “thrown one of the knives at the staff members, missing them.”
Justice Robert-Beech Jones said the alleged offence suggested in the documents was “undoubtedly serious”. Police procedures dictate that a Taser “should not be used against an elderly or disabled subject unless exceptional circumstances exist”, court documents also outlined.
Lawyers for Constable White agreed to three bail conditions imposed by prosecutors.
Following the release of the court documents, the solicitor for Ms Nowland’s family, Sam Tierney, confirmed they had seen them and issued a statement on their behalf.
“The facts alleged against [Constable] White are extremely confronting and shocking,” he said.
Constable White is required to be of good behaviour, attend court as ordered, and not contact Ms Nowland’s family or prosecution witnesses except through a lawyer which was not rejected by his legal team.
A plea has not been made on any of the charges and the matter will return to Cooma Local Court on September 6.
News of the altercation shocked communities and aged care experts across the world, flagging concerns about how police tend to cases involving vulnerable people, particularly those with challenging behaviours caused by dementia, and how aged care facilities handle these instances.