The police officer accused of fatally tasering 95-year-old aged care resident, Clare Nowland, has seen his charges upgraded to manslaughter ahead of his next court appearance on December 6.
Senior Constable Kristian White, 33, had initially been charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault. However, New South Wales Police upgraded his list of charges this week to include manslaughter on the advice of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Police were initially called to Cooma’s Yallambee Lodge, where Ms Nowland was a resident, on May 17. Police allege they were contacted by the aged care home as Ms Nowland – who was experiencing symptoms of dementia – was seen holding a knife while using her walking frame to move around the residence.
Ms Nowland allegedly refused to drop the knife when staff asked her to, and with no next of kin responding to phone calls, the police were called. Senior Constable White attended the scene with another office and ambulance staff.
Although the police are believed to have attempted to take the knife from the 95-year-old, she continued to resist and keep her distance. Senior Constable White allegedly gave a warning before activating his Taser, stating “Nah, bugger it” before fatally tasering Ms Nowland.
She fell and fractured her skull, and died in hospital one week later due to the critical injuries.
Crown prosecutors have since labelled the alleged actions as “a grossly disproportionate response and excessive use of force”. Meanwhile, a police expert in operational safety and training who reviewed CCTV and body-worn camera footage stated the discharge of the Taser did not meet the threshold for the weapon’s use.
Additional criticism has been levelled against the NSW Police as they did not reveal the use of a Taser until 36 hours after the incident, previously stating they waited until Ms Nowland’s family had been informed.
Previous media reports show the police had informed the family by midday on May 17 and that the first public statement did not mention the presence of paramedics, a knife or a Taser.
Ms Nowland’s family have since filed a civil case against the State of NSW alleging they are liable for the actions of the NSW Police, with the case still ongoing.
Senior Constable White also remains suspended from duty with pay despite the upgraded charges.