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7 January 2022

Concern over police handling of arrested citizens in custody

Friday 7 January 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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Concern over police  handling of arrested citizens in custody

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 law breakers.

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 stopped!

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 absolute.

My resolution for the New Year? “Audacity, tenacity and perseverance bring results!”

Norman George  

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.