Clare Nowland: Tasering of 95-year-old ‘grossly disproportionate’


An Australian police officer charged with tasering a 95-year-old care home resident acted in a “grossly disproportionate” way, prosecutors in the case say.

Clare Nowland died in May, a week after the incident which was prompted when she was found holding two knives.

New court documents allege Kristian White said “bugger it” before firing as she slowly advanced using a walker.

He is yet to enter a plea on grievous bodily harm and assault charges.

Details of the incident in the town of Cooma – about 114km (71 miles) south of Canberra – have been outlined for the first time in police facts tendered to court.

Just after 03:00 local time on 17 May, Ms Nowland was spotted walking along a corridor in Yallambee Lodge while holding two knives.

Twice, the dementia patient was asked by a nurse to drop the knives, police say, to which she replied “no”.

She was later found holding them while standing inside another resident’s room.

After failing to reach Ms Nowland’s family, staff called emergency services with the intention of having an ambulance come to sedate her, the police facts say.

It was around that time that workers allege the dementia patient threw a knife at one of her carers.

After police and ambulance workers arrived on the scene, Ms Nowland began moving “very slowly” on her walker towards them with the remaining knife raised.

Mr White asked Ms Nowland to drop the knife and stop moving four times before discharging his weapon from 1.5-2m (4.92-6.5 feet) away, police allege.

The senior constable also warned her that he was pointing a taser at her chest.

“Clare, stop now, see this, this is a taser, drop it now, drop it, this is your first warning,” he said, according to the documents.

Ms Nowland suffered a fractured skull and a serious brain bleed from falling and hitting her head after she was tasered.

Prosecutors say Mr White – who has been suspended from duty without pay pending the outcome of the criminal investigation – used “excessive force” given Ms Nowland’s age and physical state.

Police procedures dictate that a taser “should not be used against an elderly or disabled subject unless exceptional circumstances exist”, the documents added.

The Nowland family have asked for “privacy and space” while they digest the police facts, according to a statement released by their lawyer.

“The facts alleged against Mr White are extremely confronting and shocking,” it said.

Kristian White – who is on bail – is due to appear before a Cooma court again on 6 September.

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