Police ID powers questioned

Thursday August 31, 2017 Written by Published in Local
Lawyer Norman George. 17082937 Lawyer Norman George. 17082937

Lawyer Norman George has questioned whether the Cook Island Police Service is capable of correctly identifying drug paraphernalia and filtration devices used for smoking cannabis.

 

The issue arose when George’s client Okotai Rongo appeared in court before Justice of the Peace John Whitta last week, on a charge of possessing a utensil for drug use.

“I would like to begin by raising my concerns about the number of defendants coming up before this court on charges of possession of utensils used for smoking cannabis,” George said.

“I need more evidence from the police in their disclosures, such as a photograph of the utensil.

“My concern is that they are picking up any old tin that is sitting around with a straw in it and treating it as a utensil.

“It (possession of utensil charges) is becoming so common and so frequent, but these charges carry a maximum of five years’ imprisonment.

“So what I would like to see is some actual evidence.

“If they (police) can’t bring the object to court so we can view it, I would like police to include a photograph of the utensil in their disclosures instead.

“That way we can see if it is a utensil used for smoking, or if it is just another rubbish can that the police picked up.

“It is starting to become too common your worship. I mean, I can honestly say I have seen some almost unidentifiable “space objects” being treated as utensils used for smoking cannabis and if this continues, it will lead to abuse by the police.

“So I am asking for this case to be adjourned for a short period of time, so the police can supply us with photographic evidence of this so-called utensil this man is accused of possessing.

“We will have no problem entering a plea of guilty if we are satisfied that it is a usable utensil and not just a soft drink can.”

Prosecution agreed to supply the evidence.

George stood again following the prosecution’s submissions, and said he would make sure to make his request “fixed practice.”

“That (asking police to supply a photograph with evidence), will be a regular request from now on.”

Rongo’s case was of seven possession of utensil cases Whitta dealt with last week, along with two cases of possession of cannabis.

The charges coincided with a recent drug bust which saw a Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) operation seize 80 cannabis plants and arrest 10 people.

The bust took place in Arorangi last week, where a multi-level house is alleged to have been used to hide the cultivation of cannabis in pots, as well as the drying of plant leaves.

A police spokesperson said the offenders appeared in High Court last week.

The defendants were likely to face further charges, he added.

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