- Lawyers couldn’t reach an agreement on what should be included
- The family believed reading an altered statement would defeat the purpose
The family of Steven Nixon-McKellar have refused to read an edited victim impact statement at the conclusion of an inquest into his death.
The inquest has spent four days examining the circumstances of Mr Nixon-McKellar’s death in October 2021 after a police officer applied a lateral vascular neck restraint on him.
The 27-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest and couldn’t be revived.
Mr Nixon-McKellar’s mother and aunt were due to give a statement at the conclusion of evidence, but counsel representing police officers involved in the case, and the Queensland Police Union, objected to its contents.
The lawyer representing the family, Stewart Levitt, told the inquest his clients did not wish to make a statement that was “tailored” to the Queensland Police Service.
“If the court is not minded to allow this statement to be accepted in its current form … they wish to withdraw any request to make a victim impact statement in protest,” Mr Levitt said.
“They do not wish to tailor their statement any more than they currently have in favour of the wishes or sensibilities of the Queensland Police Service.”
Counsel for the individual police officers, Justin Greggery, said he had been given inadequate time to consider the material.
“It makes attacks on the reputations of police officers and institutions in a very direct sense … which is not the usual approach in victim impact statements,” Mr Greggery said.
He, along with lawyers representing the Queensland Police Service, advocated to adjourn the matter to the morning to allow time to reach an agreement, but ultimately Mr Nixon-McKellar’s family did not wish to proceed.
Mr Nixon-McKellar’s mother, Raelene Nixon, told the inquest reading an altered statement would have defeated its purpose.
“I travelled 1,800 kilometres, I sat in this court for four days, and I afforded every other speaker the opportunity to voice what they believe happened here,” Ms Nixon said.
“Our family has not been offered the same opportunity … I sat here for four days and we were not afforded 10 minutes.”
The family left the courtroom yelling “no answers, no peace, no justice”.
The Nixon-McKellar family was dissatisfied with Ian Leavers from the Queensland Police Union being called to give evidence to the inquest regarding the lateral vascular neck restraint, which the Queensland Police Service banned during ordinary policing duties in April.
Mr Leavers told the inquest that while the restraint could now only be used if an officer was at risk of death or grievous bodily harm, police should still be trained in its use.
“It is an option when it comes to use of force and police should be correctly trained in that,” Mr Leavers told the inquest.
Mr Leavers also told the inquest he believed the police commissioner should reintroduce its use, to allow for a proper study to be conducted into its use.
“It is an option available and I would ask the commissioner to reconsider her decision … because I think it’s a viable use of force option,” he told the inquest.
Cause of death
The final day of the inquest also heard from two pathologists about Steven Nixon-McKellar’s physiological state at his time of death.
Dr Christopher Day and the pathologist engaged by the family, Dr Byron Collins ,agreed that it was difficult to pinpoint Mr Nixon-McKellar’s exact cause of death.
They both identified that he had underlying heart disease and lung disease, and had been found with a “toxic” amount of methylamphetamine in his system.
While neither pathologist pointed directly to the restraint as the cause of death, Dr Collins told the inquest he didn’t believe the manoeuvre was necessary given Mr Nixon-McKellar’s exhausted state.
“It was unnecessary to apply the LVNR,” Dr Collins said.
Coroner Terry Ryan has retired to consider his findings.