27 September 2016
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police seriously breached the rights of three people detained at the Greymouth Police Station following their arrests on 2 May 2015.
In the early morning of 2 May 2015, Police arrested a woman and two men at an address in Greymouth and took them to Greymouth Police Station. One man was arrested for assault, and the woman and the second man were arrested for possession of cannabis. The Authority conducted an independent investigation after Police notified the Authority of issues relating to the detention of these three people.
The Authority has found that, while Police lawfully detained the man arrested for assault, they were not justified in keeping him handcuffed for a prolonged period while he was alone in a cell. The actions of Police breached his right to be treated with humanity and respect for his inherent dignity while deprived of liberty under section 23(5) of the New Zealand Bill Of Rights Act 1990.
In relation to the man and woman arrested for possession of cannabis, the Authority has found that Police were not justified in arresting and charging the man, and consequently breached his right not to be arbitrarily arrested under section 22 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
Additionally, after the officers had taken both of them back to the station, Police continued to arbitrarily detain them in breach of their rights under sections 22, 23(2) and 23(3) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Police did not take them to appear at court on the morning of their arrests; instead a sergeant directed that they be kept in custody while he was off duty so that he could interview them when he returned to the Police station at 10pm that evening.
From the time of their arrests, the woman was detained by Police for over 19 hours and the man for over 15 hours. Police did not have the power to detain these people for questioning and should have released them, either without charge or on bail, after their opportunity to appear at court had passed.
“As an experienced officer, the sergeant must have known full well that it was illegal to detain the man and woman so they could later be interviewed. The sergeant’s actions were a flagrant abuse of his power”, said Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers. Police are currently conducting an employment investigation into the sergeant’s actions.
The Authority has also determined that Police failed to provide the woman, and the man arrested for assault, with timely access to legal advice. This was a breach of their rights to consult or instruct a lawyer without delay under section 23(1)(b) of the New Zealand Bill Of Rights Act.
The Authority has noted that the Greymouth Police Station lacks ‘access slots’ in its cell doors to enable the safe removal of handcuffs from volatile prisoners without Police officers having to enter the cells. The Authority has recommended that Police update the Accommodation Code to include a requirement that access slots be provided in all cell doors.
The detention of three people in Greymouth (PDF 514 KB)