Police censorship

November 25th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Jarrod Gilbert writes in the Herald:

Sitting in front of me is a 20-page document. It’s my police file. It doesn’t say much, because 17 of those pages are completely blacked out.

I requested my file because I’ve been deemed by the police to be unfit to conduct research – I’ve been banned from accessing basic and uncontroversial police data. As an academic who studies crime, this is rather crippling. It’s also a staggering abuse of power.

The police have deemed me unfit because of my “association with gangs”. This association won’t surprise many people: I did New Zealand’s largest ever study of gangs. It was long, exhausting and sometimes dangerous work, but it was worth it. The research culminated in an award-winning book, and academic publications all around the world.

To get my results I used – in part – an ethnographic method; in other words I hung out with the gangs.

I have been deemed unfit to undertake crime research because I know criminals through studying crime. Bloody hell.

This is ludicrous.

Famous economist Steven Levitt once did research on the economics of drug dealing for his book Freakonomics with Stephen Dubner. That involved spending time with gangs and drug dealers. Would the NZ Police also regard Steven Levitt as unfit to conduct research?

And a 20 page file on an academic? Sure if he has spent time with gangs as part of his research, I would expect some incidental notes about him, but 20 pages?

This Kafkaesque nightmare began when I was leading five researchers (all but one have PhDs and two are full professors) who were working for a large government agency wanting to investigate alcohol-related harms. Part of this project required some basic crime data from the police. It was then that I discovered the lengths police are going to to control research. This is not simply through excluding academics, as they did me, but through contracts that have to be signed to gain basic information. In our case legal opinions suggest that it should be available to any person who asks for it under the Official Information Act.

I would go further. I think all government data, by default, should be publicly available in machine readable format. Obviously personal details should not be included, but I’d love to see the criminal sector databases on convictions, sentencing, rehabilitation etc publicly available so NGOs, researchers and even companies can analyse the data and look for trends, correlations, possible causative factors etc.

The degree of control the police sought over research findings and publications was more than trifling. The research contracts demand that a draft report be provided to police. If the results are deemed to be “negative” then the police will seek to “improve its outcomes”. Both the intent and the language would have impressed George Orwell.

Researchers unprepared to yield and make changes face a clause stating the police “retain the sole right to veto any findings from release”. In other words, if an academic study said something the police didn’t like – or heaven forbid was in any way critical of the police – then the police could stop it being published.

Outrageous. This is not Police private data – this is Government data funded by taxpayers.

These demands were supported by threats. The contracts state that police will “blacklist” the researchers and “any organisations connected to the project … from access to any further police resources” if they don’t abide by police wishes.


After seeking information from the police about their sinister research contracts and to understand why I am banned, I am little the wiser. I have been told the decision to ban me is being reviewed. What I do know is that in an open democracy that puts such a high currency on free speech, the police should not be seeking to muzzle legitimate academic inquiry.

The Police should remove the ban on Dr Gilbert, and change their contracts. It is far enough to perhaps have a clause requiring them to see a draft of any research so they can critique it, but there should be no right of veto.

And further the Government should look at getting this data out of the exclusive control of state agencies, and into the public domain. If (for example) both the Sensible Sentencing Trust and JustSpeak could access criminal and corrections databases, then I’m sure we’d end up with better debate and understanding of criminal justice policies.

It took an OIA request and many months to discover that since the three strikes law came into force, the reoffending rate for strike offences has dropped 62% or so. That shouldn’t require an OIA request. Researchers should be able to find this out for themselves at any time.

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Is Heather going to jail?

October 22nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan has found herself in the midst of a police investigation after illegally buying a gun for her current affairs show.

Auckland City Police has announced it has opened a criminal investigation into the purchase of the gun over the internet.

The purchase was made by the TV3 reporter for a piece on current affairs show Story, due to air on Wednesday night. 

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, a police spokeswoman did not name du Plessis-Allan but said police would not rule out charging the woman who bought the gun. 

The police investigation stemmed from a report “from a woman alleging that false details had been used to fraudulently obtain a firearm via an online dealer”, the police statement said.

“For anyone to possess a firearm without having the necessary license is a criminal offence and, if proven in court, could result in a sentence of up to three months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $1000.

I doubt any prosecution would succeed as it was done to highlight the system was not working. But there may be consequences for signing a document with false details.

“Charges for obtaining by deception, if proven, carries penalties ranging from three months imprisonment up to seven years imprisonment depending on the value of the item obtained.”

The Police are embarrassed that Heather showed up the flaws in their system. They should fix the system rather than go on a vendetta.

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Well done NZ Police

October 13th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Police have announced:

A 60 year-old Auckland businessman has been charged in connection with the criminal blackmail threat to poison infant formula with 1080, made public in March this year.

This follows the execution of five search warrants in Auckland and the Rangitikei district this morning.

He has been charged with 2 counts of Blackmail, each charge relating to the threat letters sent to Fonterra and Federated Farmers in November 2014.

Blackmail is punishable by a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment.

The accused will appear in the Manukau District Court this afternoon.

Great work to identify them and make an arrest.

Hopefully they will not get name suppression. It will be interesting, if they do not, to learn about their background and assumed motives.


Maybe they should have tasered him, not pepper sprayed him?

September 13th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police have apologised for pepper-spraying a schoolgirl in the face while trying to arrest her father. …

Bay of Plenty district commander superintendent Andy McGregor said the girl was “accidently contaminated with pepper spray” just after 5.30pm – and blamed her father Jack “Blu” Kira, who he said violently resisted arrest.

“We’re sorry for the obvious distress and pain this would have caused the girl during the incident and are pleased she is okay,” he said.

“However, had it not been for the actions of the man involved, officers would not have had to use pepper spray.”

The spraying happened during a routine traffic stop. Police said Kira refused to give his details and tried to drive off.

The officer attempted to remove the keys but his arm was trapped when the man allegedly wound up the window.

“As the officer pulled his arm free, the window broke, causing minor cuts. Unfortunately during the arrest, a girl who was in the car with the man was accidentally contaminated by some of the spray.

“It is also sad that she is an innocent victim who has had to witness this incident, which could have been completely avoided.”

A police spokesman said the man was now facing two charges of aggravated assault, and one charge each of failing to stop, and giving false details.


I’d say the responsibility is 99% the father’s.

I’d give 1% responsibility to the Police as with hindsight it would have been better if they tasered the father, instead of pepper sprayed him, as that doesn’t affect others in the car.


More activism with no evidence

August 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New figures collected by Regional Public Health suggests benefits from pushing back the cut-off time for selling alcohol to 4am has worn off, with binge-drinkers – university students in particular – back to their old habits.

In other words, as predicted, the change of closing times didn’t work. But instead of admitting this, they claim try more of the same.

Police and Regional Public Health began experimenting in January with supporting new bottle stores in the CBD if they agree to restrict their operating hours and sell “premium” liquor only.

Since then, four licences have been granted to new bottle stores that agree not to sell the cheap stuff, while another existing bottle store has pegged back its hours and promised to deal only in high-quality booze.

Stephen Palmer, a Wellington region medical officer of health, said another bottle store in Cuba St was being encouraged to go down the same path.

The aim was not to run mainstream beer out of town, but to reduce its availability and “nudge” the public towards drinking smaller amounts of more expensive beer and wine, he said.

Palmer put Tui, Lion Red, DB Draught and Heineken in the mainstream category, while the likes of Tuatara and Moa were more at the craft beer end of the spectrum.

This is outrageous. The Police and health officials are now trying to dictate what brands of beer can be sold. I’m a fan of craft beer, but to say you’ll only support granting an alcohol licence to outlets that only stock craft beer is taxpayer funded activism which goes well beyond their statutory role.

Police and Regional Public Health were now opposing all liquor licence applications for “mainstream” bottle stores, he said.

So the NZ Police now want to decide what brands of beer are okay to sell. The Minister should bash the Commissioner ears and warn him that public confidence in the Police will decline, if they continue this social activism.

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Fewer retailers and bars selling booze to minors

August 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The number of people appearing before the courts for selling alcohol to minors halved between 2012 and 2014, despite an increase in police stings.

Police figures show 82 people were prosecuted for selling alcohol to minors at on and off-licences New Zealand wide in 2012 operations and 81 in 2013. In 2014 that figure nearly halved to 42. …

Police carried out 2839 controlled purchase operations in 2012 and caught 258 premises selling alcohol to minors. In 2013 they carried out 2771 and caught 232. In 2014 they carried out 3013 and caught 224.

So the strike rate in 2012 was 9.1%, in 2013 it was 8.4% and in 2014 it was 7.4%.

Hopefully this means that bars and retailers are being more stringent in checking for ID.

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All cops to get tasers

July 31st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

All frontline police response staff will now routinely carry tasers.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced the new initiative from Police Headquarters in Wellington this morning, saying the change was about enhancing the safety of New Zealand communities and police staff.

The initiative meant tasers could be carried by appropriately trained staff at all times while they were on duty.

Those staff were level one trained police staff, the majority of who were frontline police staff, Mr Bush said.

There are approximately 5500 police staff trained as level one responders, Mr Bush said.

Currently, these staff could access tasers from a lockbox in frontline police vehicles if required.

Mr Bush said the decision to role out tasers to all frontline police staff was made following detailed research, which showed the taser was successful in de-escalating violent situations.

“The reality is that police officers often enter into high risk situations.

If you don’t want our Police to be routinely armed, then you should support this.

If an offender has a knife, then it is very dangerous for a police officer to try and take them on with a baton or even something like capsicum spray. So without tasers, you need a gun.

Steven Wallace was shot as he was on a rampage with a baseball bat. If Police had tasers back then, he might be alive.

The Police published the results of three years of taser use in 2013.

  • Tasers were displayed in only 35 out of every 10,000 apprehensions and used in only 5 out of 10,000 apprehensions
  • Tasers only have to be used once in eight times they are displayed. Seven in eight times the display of it incentivises the offender to surrender
  • Only 1% of taser events (includes just displaying) resulted in injury to offenders
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Have the Police decriminalised cannabis?

July 27th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar


Salient reports:

Chris Fowlie is the head of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and he really doesn’t like the way the police enforce the Misuse of Drugs Act. In a recent post on The Daily Blog, he argued that the authorities maliciously target harmless dope smokers, causing them far more harm than a joint ever could.

The statistics he cites appear to back up his argument: since 1994 there have been nearly half a million drug arrests, accounting for 11 per cent of all recorded crime. 85 per cent of the arrests were for cannabis, and 87 per cent of those were for personal amounts. On average, that equates to the police arresting 15,800 users a year for possession of personal amounts of pot. That’s 43 a day, or one every 33 minutes.

Fowlie says these statistics “are illustrative of how drug policing in New Zealand has gone off the rails”. But actually, the opposite is true: a closer look at the data shows that in fact there has been a huge decline in police arrests for possession and use over time. In averaging out arrests over two decades, Fowlie focusses on the noise and misses the signal.

You can see the trend above.

In the period between 1994 and 2014, annual recorded offences for possession of all illicit drugs halved. Offences for cannabis possession specifically did likewise. More interestingly, recorded offences for using illicit drugs fell from 1,307 down to 260, which was largely driven by 1,046 fewer cannabis use offences. The Police prosecute significantly fewer people for possession and use of drugs than they did two decades ago.

And this has occurred at a time when Ministry of Health figures suggest that the prevalence of drugs in New Zealand has remained stable and, particularly in the case of cannabis, relatively high. The data shows that 42 per cent of Kiwis aged 15 and over have smoked pot at some point in their lives, and 11 per cent have smoked pot in the past year. That’s 397,000 past-year tokers. The same survey showed that only two per cent of past year cannabis smokers reported experiencing legal problems as a result of their use.

So why have arrests halved if use has remained the same? There’s a simple answer: the Police are decriminalising cannabis in New Zealand.

I wouldn’t go that far. I would say that the Police are sensibly prioritising crimes that actually have victims.

Another explanation for the decline is that there has been a wider shift in the way that police approach low-level criminal offending. Wilkins says that “it would be a mistake to say it is a change that is specific to drugs. It reflects a wider change in police philosophy.” He believes the trend extends to other low-level crime, such as petty theft, and says the decline in arrests is a case of better allocation of police resources. “There’s a desire to be more effective and efficient, so that means reprioritising low-level offending.”

This is supported by the data. At the same time as possession and use charges for cannabis have come down, the number of manufacture and import charges have increased. The last 20 years have also seen the rise of meth, which Wilkins says has taken up more policing resources.

“If you’re a policeman and you have two markets—meth and cannabis—you have to ask yourself, ‘which is the best use of my time?’”

And I’m for prioritising meth over cannabis.

Encouragingly, Police Commissioner Mike Bush agrees that alternative approaches to prosecution can lead to better outcomes for users. Last month he heaped praise on Auckland Constable Scott Wolfe, “whose empathy for a methamphetamine addict helped turn her life around”.

In a post on his “Commissioner’s Blog”, Bush explained that Constable Wolfe “arrested the woman for possession of a cannabis pipe and, recognising the signs of methamphetamine use, discovered she had a heavy addiction and was living in a car”. Instead of prosecuting the woman through the traditional court system, Constable Wolfe referred her instead to Te Kooti o Timatanga Hou—The New Beginnings Court, which is focussed on homeless and disadvantaged people.

“She’s now in rehabilitation, has reconnected with her child and made huge improvements in her life,” said the Commissioner. “This is a superb example of the difference we can all make by showing a little understanding and using our initiative.” Indeed.

Yep, a good call.

Yes, there is. Professor Mark Bennett, a lecturer at Victoria University’s Law School, says that “if a certain offence will not be followed up on and there is little danger of detection and/or prosecution, there are questions around the legitimacy of this from both a rule of law and democratic perspective.”

The police can’t just decide to stop enforcing the laws of the land without there being repercussions. Dr. Dean Knight, another law lecturer at Victoria, says that one of the roles of the police is to follow the democratic will of the people and enforce the laws they voted for. “The Police probably shouldn’t effectively repudiate laws through non-enforcement,” he says.

We might think it’s fine for the Police to decriminalise pot, but what happens if one day they decided to stop prosecuting theft, say? Or assault? Or corruption? This is particularly concerning given the fact that the public is largely unaware of changes in police policy.

We already have this with electoral offences. Over many years the Police have shown no inclination to prosecute electoral law breaches.

But there is always going to be a degree of Police discretion over how actively they enforce some laws. Otherwise they’d be arresting jaywalkers or the like.

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Smart Police work

July 22nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have been snooping on people’s Facebook profiles, and using the evidence to carry out drug raids.

The monitoring has been exposed by members of a blackmarket Facebook group, who complained of receiving letters out of the blue from police, warning them they were being watched.

One unidentified user received a letter from the Canterbury Organised Crime Squad, dated July 15, warned that their membership of a group suspected to be aiding illegal drug deals had been noticed. 

They might wish to “review” their membership of the group, the letter suggested – and it had a card for a drug abuse helpline stapled to it.

“Police have been monitoring your Facebook profile and established that you are engaged in a Facebook group that actively sells and trades in controlled drugs,” the letter said.

“Committing offences against [drug laws] can lead to penalties, including imprisonment.” 

Police confirmed on Monday that they were monitoring social media pages, and sometimes using the evidence they found to mount raids.

This is smart work by the Police. And it isn’t spying or snooping. If you’re stupid enough to join public groups devoted to criminal activity, you shouldn’t be surprised the Police take an interest.

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Is an evacuation compulsory?

June 27th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A south Taranaki grandmother says she was shoved to the ground and handcuffed by police after she objected to being forced from her house in the face of rapidly rising flood waters.

Police came to Dot Bowlin’s Waitotara property late on Saturday afternoon as they told everyone in her street to leave.

But Mrs Bowlin, 67, told them she wasn’t ready to go as the water wasn’t yet a threat to her house – situated on a rise – and she had to organise her animals.

She said she was pleading her case to stay when a younger policeman allegedly threw her to the ground and put her in handcuffs, aggravating an arm injury.

Police yesterday confirmed Mrs Bowlin was handcuffed, but said they could not comment on how she was treated.

There are two sides to every story, but what concerns me here is that this was not a case of refusing to be arrested, or fleeing a crime. This was choosing not to evacuate. Do the Police have the authority to force people to evacuate? Surely their role should be to advise and assist, but if someone wants to stay – that is there decision. They should be told, they won’t be assisted if they stay, but is an evacuation order compulsory?

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One law for all?

June 17th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police officers are being told not to ticket unlicensed Maori drivers caught behind the wheel.

The Counties Manukau Police guidelines are detailed in a policy, leaked to TVNZ last night.

It states police should refer Maori drivers for training if they are pulled over without a licence or in breach of their conditions instead of fines.

Superintendent John Tims told NewstalkZB this morning the document should have been worded better.

Everyone was entitled to the compliance, not just Maori drivers, he said.

“[The document] is probably not worded as well as it can be.

“There’s two parts to this: the compliance is for everyone, including Maori, and it is about making sure there’s less deaths on the road, less crashes,” Mr Tims said.

Maori drivers were “considered” when they were pulled over by police, he said, but were included in the policy simply as part of the Turning the Tide national policy.

PassRite Driving Academy founder Fred Bardon said it was a great way of getting people licensed to drive – but only if it applied it all drivers.

Maori should not be the only targeted group “…because there are other offenders that are doing the same thing and we need to be across the board so that everybody gets the same opportunity”, he told NewstalkZB.

A policy of referral for training rather than prosecution is fine, so long as it applies to all.

The Police say the document was simply not worded well.

It would be interesting to seek stats, if they exist, on how many drivers of each ethnicity have been referred for training for unlicensed driving, rather than prosecuted.

UPDATE: A reader sends in this satire:


Counties-Manukau Police have today announced an extension to their successful policy of not enforcing the law for ethnicities that are over-represented in crime statistics.

“Our exclusion from enforcing the drivers license law with respect to Maori has been a roaring success.  We now don’t ticket any Maori, or person claiming to be Maori.  This has made a massive positive impact on our recorded statistics.

“The fact that prevalence of Maori driving without a license has skyrocketed as a result of this policy, should not be seen as a negative outcome.  This is about “Turning the tide”.

“We have decided to extend the policy to the crime of aggravated robbery, an offence for which Maori are even more over-represented than drivers’ license offences.

“Now, when we receive a report or complaint of an aggravated robbery, we will ask the caller or complainant “Does one or more offenders appear to be Maori?”  If the answer is yes, we will not attend the incident or follow up the complaint, unless the Maori offender/s do not return the money they have stolen within two months.

“We expect this new policy to be an incredible success, with the number of arrests of Maori on suspicion of committing aggravated robbery expected to plummet.

“While we expect aggravated robberies by Maori and others pretending to be Maori, to skyrocket, we ask the public to consider the benefits of “Turning the Tide”.”


Please direct any media enquiries to our policy advisor, Hone Harawira.


Uber charges dropped

June 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have dropped charges against 16 Uber drivers who were fined while  carrying passengers using the popular ridesharing app.

Uber is a free smartphone app, which connects passengers to freelance drivers in private cars.

Uber now has more than 1000 drivers in Auckland and Wellington and aims to expand throughout New Zealand.

But in Auckland, police began stopping some Uber drivers over the New Year period charging them or issued them infringement notices for using their smartphone app as a meter – a breach that would make them subject to tough taxi regulations.

Good to see common sense win out. It is not the role of the Police to work on behalf of the Taxi Federation.

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Cop charged with murder

April 9th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A white police officer who gunned down a fleeing, unarmed black man appeared to plant his service-issue Taser gun at the side of the victim’s lifeless body, according to shocking videotape which emerged in the wake of the senseless killing.

Patrolman Michael Slager, 33, opened fire on father-of-four Walter Scott, 50, in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday morning after reportedly stopping him over a broken tail light.

Slager was charged with murder on Tuesday and could face the death penalty after the incendiary footage emerged. The officer had previously defended his actions, saying he feared for his life after Scott wrestled his Taser gun from him during a scuffle.

However, cellphone footage from the scene showed Scott getting around 15-20 feet away before Slager opened fire with seven shots in quick succession followed by an eighth. The 50-year-old U.S. Coast Guard veteran was hit five times.

Thankfully there was cellphone footage of what happened.

You don’t shoot an unarmed person eight times in the back, for fleeing from Police.

And you don’t try and plant manufactured evidence on him that he was armed.

It does make you wonder how often this happens, without video footage to contradict the official version?


The Roastbusters report

March 20th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The IPCA has said:

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today has found a number of significant deficiencies in the original Police investigations into the alleged offending  by a group of young men in Auckland who called themselves the ‘Roastbusters’.

Details to come.

“The supervisory oversight of the individual cases was inadequate and the investigating staff failed to properly consider all available offences in determining whether or not to prosecute the young men,” Sir David said.

This is perhaps the key area.

“The Authority found that all of the Police officers involved treated the young women and their families with courtesy and compassion and maintained good contact with them.

“However, the officers’ contact and interaction with the young men who were the subjects of the investigations and their families was inadequate or non-existent. The failure of Police to make contact meant the young men’s parents were never made aware of several of the incidents and details of their sons’ involvement and therefore they were unable to intervene or act to address the behaviour.”

That’s bad. Even if you can’t charge them, you should be letting the parents know there have been complaints.

“Despite the failings in this case, the Authority has not found any evidence of ongoing and widespread poor practice nationally in the Police investigation or prosecution of child abuse or sexual assault cases.

Somewhat reassuring.

From the report:

However, it is concerned that in several of the cases, because officers concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed without the cooperation of the young women, they decided that no further action was required. They therefore overlooked the importance of holding the young men accountable for their behaviour and preventing its recurrence.

In other words just because you can’t charge them, doesn’t mean you can’t do something else.

Under section 134 of the Crimes Act 1961, everyone11 who has a sexual connection with, or does an indecent act on, a young person (under the age of 16 years) has committed an offence and is liable to a term of imprisonment (see paragraph 132). There is no question that these young men were aware that the young women involved in the six cases investigated by CPT staff were under 16 years. As a result of their interaction with Police officers, it is also evident that several of the young men (certainly by the time the investigation into Case 1 had concluded) were aware that they were committing an offence, irrespective of their own ages.

Officer D told the Authority that he and Officer C determined that prosecutions under section 134 were “inappropriate” because two of the three young men were under 16 at the time of the offending. He added that section 134 is intended for “consenting parties” and that, if it had been used to bring a prosecution in Case 3, it would have implied that the Police did not believe the victim’s initial account that she was not consenting.

The Authority does not accept the validity of this reasoning, as there were a number of aggravating features in these cases that should have prompted consideration of such a prosecution. In four of these cases the young women were between two and three years younger than the young men involved. They were vulnerable (due to factors such as their level of intoxication); the extent to which they were willing parties was at best equivocal; and they were subject to sexual acts by more than one young man. The behaviour of the young men was demonstrably unacceptable and required a response.

This is where the Police really stuffed up. They misunderstood the law with their reasoning that they could not use s134 because consent was disputed. That’s a really basic error, and while not every police officer will know the law well – they should have supervisors and a checking process that would have picked this up.

In our view, the fact that the parties are close together in age, while a relevant factor, is not determinative. Moreover, it is perverse to conclude that a prosecution for sexual violation cannot be brought because there is insufficient evidence to prove lack of consent beyond reasonable doubt, but then to reject a prosecution under section 134 on the basis that it would imply the existence of consent. The reality is that a prosecution under section 134 says nothing about the presence or absence of consent, because it is simply irrelevant to the facts that need to be proved.

And a prosecution under s134 would almost certainly have been successful as consent is not a factor.

The report is quite damning of Waitemata Police. The failings were significant enough that disciplinary action should be considered for the officers involved.

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A good cop

March 7th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald profiles former country cop Gavin Benney:

Gavin Benney has always liked to do things his own way, rules or no rules. When a beach house on his Northland patch was burgled, he knew the thief was a local man who had moved to Tapu, 19km north of Thames.

“I rang the Thames police and asked them to try and find this guy and it was just too hard for them,” says Benney.

“So I drove down there, went to this guy’s house, knocked on his door – no search warrant, nothing. He opens the door, couldn’t believe it, didn’t know how I’d found him. Got the stolen gear, which he had in the house, and took him to the Thames police and locked him up.

“And I did get in a little bit of shit for that because I didn’t get permission. But if I’d asked for permission to go, they’d say no. You’d send it to Thames, some cop would get it, they would sit on it … And the cops are busy, but to me that’s the important stuff to go and do.”

We need more cops like this.

In 2010 he got a call from a man whose boat had been stolen from Whananaki 12 years earlier. The owner said the boat had turned up on Trade Me in an auction. Benney located the advertiser north of Kaikohe but found the local police “unhelpful”, so he drove north with the original owner and reunited him with his boat. He got an official bollocking for that too, he says. Another time he and a dairy farmer tracked down stolen stock outside his area without notifying local police. He got a search warrant but got told off again.

How dare he not get permission to solve crimes.

He is proud of the crime statistics that show he solved between 60 and 65 per cent of all reported crime, compared with the 50 per cent average for all New Zealand, and 50 per cent of burglaries, compared with only 10 per cent nationally.


In fact, even some of the villains rate him. The book’s foreword, by an anonymous local drug dealer and small-time thief, calls him “hard but fair”. It describes Benney walking into a room of “pretty serious crims” in his customary policing uniform – shorts, T-shirt and Jandals – and being treated with respect, partly because most of them played rugby with him.

Love it. Small town NZ.

This approach may have endeared Benney to locals but not to some of his bosses. Benney says he had regular run-ins over his slack dress code, using the police-issue 4WD for crayfishing trips with his friend Roger Ballard, the author’s husband, while he was on call, and often not answering his phone immediately because he was busy playing tennis or hockey.

Crayfishing is an excellent use of his vehicle!

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Herald queries Police action on court siding

February 23rd, 2015 at 7:28 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Cricket followers were introduced to a new practice, court-siding, during the opening Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The attempt to stamp out this activity, named for its initial use at tennis tournaments, saw police officers, some in plain clothes, patrolling the Hagley Oval in search of spectators using lap-tops or constantly on their cellphones. Later, they revealed that “several” people caught court-siding had been interviewed and removed from the ground. This for an activity that is not actually illegal in this country.

Given that, there is every reason to question the police involvement. This has been highlighted by AUT senior law lecturer Craig Dickson. Court-siding’s only offence, he noted, was that it breached the terms and conditions of World Cup tickets, as prescribed by the International Cricket Council. On that basis, it seems reasonable to conclude that any transgressions should be left to the security staff employed by the ICC.

Absolutely. It is not a criminal matter.

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Police could do more

February 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A man who tracked his stolen iPad is disappointed police could not obtain a search warrant to recover it.

The Napier tradesman had the iPad and about $7000 of equipment stolen from his van on Monday evening.

Using the Find My iPad feature, an application that uses GPS to track the device, he tracked it to the suburb of Onekawa. Police applied for a search warrant for a specific address but a police spokeswoman said this was declined “on the basis that there wasn’t enough evidence”.

“While it did “ping” in the [address] vicinity, that is only regarded as a general area and not a specific location. Often with these tracking cases we have found items not in the locations specified by the apps, but nearby,” the spokeswoman said.

She could not say whether police took any further action concerning the man’s complaint, such as making inquiries of the property’s occupants.


This isn’t good enough.

Yes sometimes the GPS location is slightly off by 10 metres or so. In built up areas this could mean a different house.

But surely the Police can still make inquiries. Go knock on the door and ask questions. Check if known criminals are at the address or nearby. Ask for permission to check the house. Use the Find My iPad feature to get it to make a loud noise.


Arrested for no cycle helmet!

January 29th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Plymouth police have apologised to a couple after their 11-year-old daughter was left stranded on the Coastal Walkway when her father was arrested.

On Monday afternoon Ashley Hoeta was going for a bike ride with his daughter, when he was stopped by a police officer for not wearing a helmet.

Police are cracking down on cyclists who are not wearing helmets.

The officer told Hoeta he would give him a 14-day ticket, which meant if Hoeta could prove he had a helmet he would be let off.

The two exchanged words, Hoeta said.

“I was a bit peeved. There were two people who had just passed me with no helmets and he stopped me.”

He asked the officer if he had anything better to do, Hoeta said.

“I said: ‘If you were in India you could arrest 8 people on one bicycle’.”

Hoeta told the officer to write the ticket and he would check on his daughter, who was wearing a helmet, and had stopped a few metres away.

That’s when the problems started, Hoeta said.

A police car arrived, with two officers and they said they were taking him to the station.

Hoeta was worried about his daughter, but they weren’t interested, he said.

“I got taken away and she got left on walkway. I gave her my phone, said ring Mum.”

In the car the officers asked why Hoeta hadn’t just told their colleague his name and address.

“He hadn’t asked,” Hoeta said.

So he was hauled down to the police station because he didn’t have a cycle helmet. And was forced to abandon his 11 year old daughter.

Every week there seem to be more and more stories of the Police getting out of control.  The scrapping of the speeding tolerance, the targeting of Uber, the squashing of a local Police initiative to test if people are over the drink drive limit, and now dragging someone to the Police station because he had no cycle helmet. It seems like they have lost their sense of priorities.


Police told off for being helpful

January 27th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Plymouth police have been rapped over the knuckles by national headquarters for taking a hospitable approach to those asking for a breath test.

It was reported earlier this month that people often entered the station asking to be tested. Officers, if not too busy, were happy to oblige.

A very sensible approach, helping ensure people don’t break the law.

However, New Plymouth police have now been told their approach does not line up with national policy – and that they should stop immediately.

“While these staff have acted in good faith and with the best of intentions, there is a risk if for example someone initially passes a test, then drives and is found later to be over the limit, or is involved in a crash, which could have tragic consequences,” Central Districts Acting District Commander Inspector Mark Harrison said.

So the Police would rather cover their arse, than help people not break the law.

Harrison said the best advice to those out socialising was “to make the choice whether to drink or drive – not both.”


That is not what the law says. Who appointed them moral guardians?

Sergeant Bruce Irvine said at the time that those with any level of alcohol on their breath were advised not to drive because test results could change within minutes.

“We will always say this is here and now; if in 30 minutes you go and drive it could be different,” he said. “It’s not a get-out-of-jail free card. We advise unless you’re breathing zero it’s not worth taking the risk.”

Senior Sergeant Robbie O’Keefe said at the time that people who came in were often unsure if they were over or under and wanted to do the right thing.

If a test deterred them from driving it was a good thing, he said.

The local Police were acting very sensibly – testing those who wanted it, but warning them they should not drive anyway. A pity the Police hierarchy would rather people get arrested after the fact, than make it easy for people to make an informed decision about whether it is safe to legally drive.


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Looks like zero tolerance to no longer be tolerated

January 13th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse announced:

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse has asked New Zealand Police to undertake a review of the public messages that underpinned the 2014/15 Summer Road Safety campaign.

“While I firmly support Police’s zero tolerance for poor driving behaviour that can lead to death and injury on our roads, I also support the application of discretion as articulated in the 4kph summer tolerance used in fixed speed cameras and the vast majority of mobile devices,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“I have received considerable public feedback that the speed tolerance message was confusing which has led to some strong public opinions.


Considerable public feedback that the public don’t like having to check their speedos every 30 seconds to check they’re not 1 km/hr over the limit.

Good to see the Government listen to the public on this. Would have been better if they had told the Police early on it was a bad idea.

“While this is very much an operational matter for Police, I will be taking a close interest in ensuring the message about road safety is clear and unambiguous.

I predict the Police will reach the same conclusion as the Minister, and decide to get rid of the zero tolerance policy. If not, then they need a bollocking.

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Police have too much time on their hands

January 12th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police are cracking down on Uber, the cheap and trendy new-kid-on-the-taxi rank, leaving paying customers on the pavement.

After complaints from the old-school taxi firms, police have begun fining the Uber drivers whose lower fares have been hurting the big cab companies.

The private car hire service has hit back, lodging a complaint of police harassment with the Independent Police Complaints Authority. A spokeswoman said police officers put passengers at risk by booting them out of the hired cars.

Uber has taken the world by storm, and is gaining a big chunk of market share in Auckland and Wellington. It is expected to launch in Christchurch and Queenstown this year. But in the biggest city, police confirm they have stopped several Uber drivers and charged them or issued them infringement notices for using their smartphone app as a meter – a breach that would make them subject to tough taxi regulations.

So do I have this right? The Police have so little crime to focus on, that they are pulling over Uber drivers to check whether or not they are charging an up front fare or a per km fare? As if the difference has any impact on safety. It is a commercial issue, not a Police issue.

The Police have operational independence, but again if I was the Minister I’d be telling the Commissioner that he thinks it is a stupid waste of Police time.

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Du Fresne on zero tolerance

January 10th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes in the Dom Post:

Human nature is a perverse thing. It consistently thwarts all attempts to coerce us into behaving the way bureaucrats, politicians and assorted control freaks think we should.

Take the road toll. Since early December New Zealanders have been subjected to a ceaseless barrage of police propaganda about the futility of trying to defy speed and alcohol limits.

Stern-looking police officers have been in our faces almost daily, warning that zero tolerance would be shown to lawbreakers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found their lecturing increasingly tiresome and patronising.

There’s been huge resentment against the zero tolerance decision.

The figures suggest that people crash for all manner of reasons, and that the emphasis on speed and alcohol is therefore simplistic. The police focus on speed and booze because these are easy targets, and when the road toll comes down they can take the credit.

In the ideal world envisaged by ever-hopeful bureaucrats, wayward citizens can be managed much as sheep are controlled by heading dogs. But people will never be harangued into driving safely; human nature is just too contrary.

Besides, police crackdowns are only one factor in achieving a lower road toll.

Improved road design, safer cars, better-equipped emergency services and more immediate medical attention all contribute too. It would be interesting to know, for example, how many lives have been saved because of the use of helicopters to get victims promptly to hospital.

Better roads and better cars have had a major impact I believe.

They might also ponder the potential damage done to their public image by the zeal with which they immediately began enforcing the new alcohol limits.

It must have been like shooting fish in a barrel as they set up checkpoints to catch otherwise law-abiding citizens who had inadvertently consumed one glass of sauvignon blanc too many.

It was a formidable display of police power, but how many lives did it save? And how many of the apprehended drivers were left feeling humiliated and angry at being made to feel like criminals for unwittingly doing something that was legal only days before, and that probably posed no danger to anyone?

Police will say, of course, that they were merely enforcing the law. But there is a point at which the benefits of aggressive law enforcement have to be weighed against potential negative consequences, such as public resentment. I’m not sure our police bosses have done this equation.

Nope, they have not.

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Herald on speed tolerance

January 7th, 2015 at 6:38 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Speed, however, has remained a vexed issue. Hence there has been a progressive lowering of the police’s tolerance, culminating in the zero tolerance policy. This has been criticised by many motorists. Some of their complaints are lame. Those who say it has resulted in them spending too much time with their eyes on their speedometers betray a fundamental lack of driving ability. Nonetheless, it is clear that the police must re-examine where they are enforcing the policy.

The Automobile Association is right when it suggests a focus on drivers doing just over the limit on safe urban motorways is not the best strategy. The scrutiny, it said, should be on speeding in higher-risk areas. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, motorways are, by and large, relatively safe, so much so that the speed limit may soon be raised to 110km/h on some of them. Secondly, there is no point in alienating generally good motorists who are caught slightly over the speed limit in such areas.


The Automobile Association was also on the right track when it suggested there should be an increased number of median barriers on highways. These, whether concrete, semi-rigid or cable, are not cheap. But they appeal as a means of curtailing the number of head-on crashes involving overseas tourists. The outcome of these impacts is generally more serious than other types of collisions. Improving the country’s roads in this manner offers the most rational response to what has become a notable problem.

I wonder what the impact on road safety would be if say 90% of the money that went on speed cameras and policing of the roads, was redirected to improving our current roads?

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A non emergency number for Police

January 2nd, 2015 at 1:10 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police are considering establishing a single national phone number for non-emergency calls to lighten the load on the 111 system.

An increase in people calling 111 over the past five years has prompted police to think about how to improve the service, and they say that a non-emergency number would mean they could better respond to high-priority incidents.

Figures provided to the Herald under the Official Information Act show police answered more than 628,801 111 calls last year – about 17,000 more than 2013.

They answered 88 per cent of those calls within 10 seconds, with most calls taking just four seconds to be picked up.

Mr Trappitt, who is the national prevention manager, said establishing a second non-emergency number was one of those strategies.

“It is potentially one of the options that we could explore and promote. We are having ongoing discussions.”

They’ve been talking about a non-emergency number for years, probably 10 – 15. Time to stop taling and just do it. Have a (say) 777 number for non-emergencies and 111 for emergencies.

Another option was a smartphone application that would allow people to call 111 and have their location immediately tracked by police.

Mr Trappitt said police, along with Fire Service and ambulance operators, had been in discussions with telecommunications providers and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment about how GPS could be used to help with 111 calls.

That’s a great idea.


Police and electoral law

August 30th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at NRT blogs:

In 2007 Parliament passed the Electoral Finance Act. One of the changes it made to our electoral law, retained in the subsequent amendments, was to massively increase the penalties for electoral offences. The penalty for a corrupt practice was doubled, from one to two years imprisonment. That for an illegal practice was increased from a $3,000 to a $40,000 fine. The message was clear: Parliament took electoral offending seriously.

Meanwhile, police have stopped prosecuting them entirely.

According to an OIA sent via the FYI system, not a single case resulting from the last election or subsequent by-elections has resulted in prosecution. Instead, police have dealt with even clear cases of double voting with warnings. Eighteen months ago they hadn’t even done that, so its hard to see it as anything other than a conscious push to clear cases off the books, to tick the “resolved” box so the stats look good.

The police’s excuse is that offenders are mostly first-timers and that warnings are appropriate. That may be true in the case of double voters (but even so…). But its certainly not true in the case of political parties violating advertising and donations law.

The Police have failed to do anything for the 2005, 2008 and 2011 elections. Under my version of three strikes, they should be out, and prosecution should transfer to another entity. Even worse than their failure to investigate cases, is the fact they when they did investigate (in 2005) they totally misinterpreted the law, made the most basic errors, and didn’t even understand concepts such as strict liability.

It is time for things to change. When Parliament reviews the 2014 election, they should recommend that the Police no longer be the body to make decision on electoral law prosecutions. It should either go to Crown Law, or rest with the Electoral Commission itself. Also the Electoral Commission should have the power to issue minor fines for minor breaches.

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