Police grilled over missing detail in report after 95-year-old tasered

Despite international outrage over the incident, NSW police have stood by their decision to initially withhold information.

NSW Police have defended their decision not to initially disclose that a taser was used on Clare Nowland, a 95-year-old aged-care resident, who is now in a critical condition after her head struck the floor following the altercation.

On Wednesday Ms Nowland, who has dementia, reportedly approached police using a walker as she held a steak knife in her hand at Yallambee aged-care home in Cooma, about 400 km southwest of Sydney.

Authorities say she had been wandering the facilities for several hours before stealing the knife from the kitchen. The incident has sparked international outrage and the NSW Police boss was questioned on why there was no mention of the woman being tasered when the incident was initially reported to media.

Clare Nowland, the 95-year-old who was tasered by police at her aged care home on Wednesday, can be seen looking at the camera at a church.
Clare Nowland is the 95-year-old who was tasered by police at her aged care home on Wednesday. Source: AAP

"Early in the investigation it was necessary for us to make sure that the family were aware of what the circumstances were... We didn't want that family to hear on the radio or the TV what had happened to their mum, and we had to be sensitive to that," NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said on 2GB.

However, host Ben Fordham pressed the issue further, sharing that many people don't believe this was the true reason police withheld the information.

"Was it all about protecting the family and what they'd be exposed to, or was it hiding something that might be embarrassing or shameful for the police?" he asked, suggesting the name of the resident or the aged care facility instead be removed to safeguard privacy.

Ms Webb responded by saying the situation is a "sensitive matter" and she believes it was the right decision to not share that a taser was used.

"We all want answers Ben," she said.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb addresses the media during a press conference in Sydney, Saturday, May 20, 2023.
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the situation is a 'sensitive matter'. Source: AAP

Watching bodycam footage will 'taint' investigation

Ms Webb said the officer's body-worn camera would form part of the critical incident investigation report, but she does not plan on watching the footage before all other statements and evidence are collated.

"It may be the case in the future where I have to make a determination based on a brief of evidence, without being tainted by having seen a part of the brief without context," Ms Webb replied when asked why she has not watched the footage.

"It's important that we follow a process... I will make my determination impartially."

She continued by saying it's important to view the footage "in the context of all the other statements and evidence", with Ms Webb having the final decision on whether or not the police officer responsible for tasering Ms Nowland will remain in the force.

Incident highlights need for further dementia training

Despite more than half of all aged care residents in Australia having dementia, there is no minimum training required for 70 per cent of the staff that work across these facilities, according to Professor of Clinical Geropsychology, Sunil Bhar.

"There is no requirement that these individuals take any training on what dementia is or how to care for people with dementia," he told Yahoo News Australia.

Personal Care Attendants are responsible for meeting resident's instrumental needs, such as eating, bathing and clothing, yet many are misinformed on the illness and its effects.

"There has been a lot of calls from advocacy groups that there should be mandatory training provided to this huge workforce within nursing homes."

with AAP

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