Dear Editor, police handling of arrested citizens held in custody cruel and shameful.
My New Year’s Day began with a wakeup call from two
arrested clients held in custody at 4am on New Year’s morning. A father and
18-year-old son were arrested for having a fight with others when a certain
nightclub closed in an area I nickname as “Red Zone” at 2am.
Based on experience, when a fight is stopped by the
Police and parties arrested, it is game over. As the penalties are $100 fine or
3 months imprisonment, I assumed I would have no problem arranging bail for the
two to be released to join their family for New Year’s Day. At 9am, I rang and
spoke to the duty Senior Sergeant. I raised the need to have my clients
released on bail.
He said that he will wait until the night shift senior
sergeant have some sleep first before calling him to discuss it. I was
disappointed with this and asked why they did not brief each other at the
change of shifts at 7am in the morning, meaning that if there were no
impediments to granting bail then proceed. If there were problems, then tell us
about it. I asked to speak to the duty inspector. In a raised voice he said he was solely in
charge of the Police Station and if I wanted to contact an off duty
commissioned officer then he would give me his blessing. The senior sergeant
must have been aware of a no contact policy because I was unable to raise any
senior officer, I did not contact the Commissioner. I rang the senior sergeant
again about 11am and was advised he was out on a Police matter. I asked for him
to call me back, but he did not.
At 4pm I contacted the late shift afternoon senior
sergeant. I was advised he was out on patrol. I said I will call again at 6pm.
He was still out. The courteous young constable said he would ask his senior
sergeant to ring me when he got back. He never did. My clients missed out on
their right to bail, through the incompetence of two senior sergeants and poor
Police administration of not rostering a commissioner officer, inspector’s rank
upwards to be on duty.
My experience with the Police is that they use
custodial facilities to keep arrested persons in custody for as long as
possible, usually up to 48 hours as part of their punishment response to all
As this is an ongoing problem, I want something done
about it. I propose to consult with the Law Society to approach the Chief
Justice, Secretary of Justice, Commissioner of Police and the Justices of the
Peace group to review and introduce new measures as follows:
1. The Police’s sole ability to make decisions to
grant or not grant bail must be reined in and controlled.
2. A fast track writ of habeas corpus proceedings must
be set up to bring arrested persons before the court as soon as possible.
3. A JP must be on call during public holidays and
weekends with the exception of Sundays.
4. The Police station must be manned by a commissioned
officer during public holidays during the morning shift at least.
5. Holding arrested persons in the Arorangi Prison
must cease immediately, it was meant to be temporary while the holding cells at
the Police station are being renovated, it seems to be permanent.
6. The Police prohibit visits of arrested persons in custody
by the next of kin. Even taking change,
toiletries and food is not allowed. This
deprivation amounts to cruel and unusual treatment or punishment under article
64(1)(b) of the Bill of Rights provision of the Constitution, it has to be
I conclude by saying that despite my disappointment
with the two senior sergeants, my support for the Police Service remain
resolute and my ability to criticise and keep them on their toes remain
My resolution for the New Year? “Audacity, tenacity
and perseverance bring results!”
Senior Barrister and Solicitor
Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt replies
– I can only comment that the police act with professionalism and in accordance
with their sworn law enforcement obligations. Any arguments to the contrary
have appropriate avenues of recourse whether through the judicial process or
Police professional standards investigations.