A magistrate has blasted prosecutors and defence lawyers for failing to afford him “a tiny bit of respect” as a police officer accused of killing great-grandmother Clare Nowland with a Taser in a nursing home appeared in court on Wednesday.
Senior Constable Kristian James Samuel White, 33, was called to Yallambee Lodge nursing home in Cooma on May 17 after the 95-year-old was found holding a knife.
Police allege he asked Mrs Nowland to drop the knife before saying “bugger it” and discharging his Taser at the dementia patient, who was using a walking frame. She sustained a brain injury when she fell backwards and died in hospital days later.
Constable White was charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault over the alleged “excessive use of force”.
However, police upgraded his charges last week to include an additional charge of manslaughter on advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
On Wednesday, Constable White was flanked by loved ones as he walked into court in a navy suit with his red curls slicked back.
Crown prosecutor Victoria Garrity confirmed the manslaughter charge had been laid on the 33-year-old and asked for further bail conditions to be imposed.
However, magistrate Roger Clisdell took issue with the parties emailing each other to agree to the bail conditions before appearing before him in court.
He said he should be afforded the “tiny bit of respect” due to him in making the final decision about the constable’s bail conditions.
“I would have thought my last explosion would have caused you to be more sensitive to my position,” the magistrate said.
Ms Garrity explained the prosecution was asking for Constable White to surrender his passport to mitigate the risk of flight.
“With the more serious charge now being faced, there is a heightened risk that he would leave the jurisdiction and not face court,” she said.
“Those two new conditions are now appropriate.”
Constable White’s lawyer Warwick Anderson said his client agreed to the additional bail conditions “to facilitate the speedy resolution” of the matter.
“He has no intention of fleeing the jurisdiction,” he said of his client.
Magistrate Clisdell questioned whether the bail conditions were necessary, but agreed to impose them because Constable White had consented.
The 33-year-old will be prohibited from leaving the country and was ordered to surrender his passport to the court.
He will return to court in February next year.
Several members of Mrs Nowland’s large family gathered at Cooma courthouse to hear the manslaughter charge laid against constable White.
“The family does not wish to comment further on the criminal process at this time given the extremely serious nature of the charge against Mr White, who continues to be a sworn NSW police officer,” the family said in a statement to the media.
NSW Police confirmed Constable White remained suspended from duty with pay.
Prosecutors allege his actions were “grossly disproportionate” and “excessive” in the context of the great-grandmother’s age and poor health.
Constable White was pulled out of bed to respond to reports Mrs Nowland had been holding a knife and entering the rooms of other residents at Yallambee nursing home on May 17.
According to police, the 95-year-old was holding two kitchen knives as she wheeled her walking frame into the rooms of three other residents and leant over their beds as they slept.
As staff tried to coax her out of one of the rooms, she allegedly threw a knife at one of the nursing home employees which landed on the ground.
Staff called the police, and Constable White and a female colleague arrived at the nursing home shortly before 5am to assist.
They found the dementia patient sitting in an office with a kitchen knife and a torch in her hand.
When asked to drop the knife, police claim she placed the torch on the desk before slowly standing up with the assistance of her four-wheeled walking frame.
When the unnamed female officer tried to retrieve the knife, Mrs Nowland slightly lifted her hand off her walker and pointed it towards her.
Police allege Constable White activated his Taser and pointed it at the chest of the 43kg woman.
“Clare, stop now, see this, this is a taser,” he cautioned Mrs Nowland.
“Drop it now, drop it, this is your first warning.”
As the 95-year-old continued to “slowly” approach, Constable White lit up the device and told her: “See, you are going to get tased.”
Police allege Mrs Nowland had the knife when the 33-year-old said “stop, just … nah bugger it” and discharged the stun gun into her chest.
The great-grandmother fell backwards and struck her head “heavily” on the nursing home floor.
She sustained an inoperable brain injury and died days later in the Cooma Hospital.
In a statement, Mrs Nowland’s eight children, 24 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren said Constable White’s alleged actions were “extremely confronting and shocking”.
They are suing the NSW government over the incident.