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Ex-officers Changed Story In Manslaughter Case - Defence

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Auckland, Dec 8 NZPA - Two former police constables have been accused of changing their stories about what happened leading up to the death of an Auckland man, resulting in a fellow officer being charged with manslaughter.

Clinton Lyall Hill, 34, has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of George Tipene Harris . In 2004 he allegedly assaulted Mr Harris in the back of a patrol car. Mr Harris died shortly afterwards when he was chased into the path of an oncoming truck.

Hill, who is suspended from duty, also faces two further charges of assault and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Former constables Reuben Harris and Benson Murphy claim that Hill assaulted Mr Harris in the back of the police car before he escaped.

But Hill says the officers had lied and he never assaulted Mr Harris.

John Haigh QC, defending Hill, said his client appeared as an honest witness and made truthful concessions throughout.

"Unlike Constables Harris and Murphy, his version of what happened has never wavered. From the scene to the police station to the coroner's court to this court. That is critical in determining whether, in effect, he is telling the truth," Mr Haigh said.

Mr Harris told the truth when first interviewed and when he gave evidence at the coroner's court, Mr Haigh said.

"But the evidence of Constable Harris is unacceptable and unreliable, because his new version is full of changes and contradictions," he said.

He said there were also differences between the stories from the two former constables.

Mr Harris said they did not confer when completing their job sheets, whereas Mr Murphy said they completed their job sheets together, Mr Haigh said.

"Constable Murphy has told some serious untruths about the alleged assault," he added.

"There was no discussion at all between the three of them about leaving out details of the assault," Mr Haigh said.

Earlier today, crown prosecutor Stuart Grieve QC said former constables Harris and Murphy had lied about the incident when they were first interviewed.

But they gave the same account of the incident during the trial, having changed the original story they gave in 2008.

"They've been prosecuted and dealt with on the basis that the first accounts they gave in 2008 are made up. The defence say it is Hill who is telling the truth. But that is up to you to decide," Mr Grieve said in his closing submission.

Hill is the sole defence witness. He said he was off duty when he encountered George Harris in the early hours of the morning on a south Auckland street. He said Mr Harris tried to grab his mobile phone and he arrested him.

Justice Geoffrey Venning is expected to begin his closing submissions at 2pm.

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