Focus on Police Competence
Green Justice Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos today said the wrong conviction, and subsequent imprisonment, of three teenage girls showed up significant problems with the conduct and practices of the New Zealand police.
“While I am pleased these girls have been freed, an apology has been given and compensation looks like being paid, this event takes already low public confidence in police procedures to a new level,” he said.
Nandor said he was very concerned by comments from the girls’ lawyer, Gary Gotlieb, that the police had tunnel vision and often identified the supposed offender before looking for evidence to prove it.
“This is not an isolated case. Past cases of serious miscarriage of justice, such as Arthur Allen Thomas, has shown this to be a real problem. It also raises concern over other cases where the verdict is disputed, such as the David Bain case,” said Nandor.
“The case of these three girls highlights wider concerns over police profiling of supposed offenders, and their use of stop and search powers to look for evidence of offending.
“This practice was confirmed by Police Association president Greg O’Connor when he told the Health Select Committee that police target people because of how they look, and view their emergency search powers as an arbitrary power to stop and search.”
Nandor is attempting to initiate an inquiry into police abuse of their search and seizure powers.
Nandor said the shabby police work that led to the conviction of the three girls was a real concern.
Justice Gault of the Court of Appeal said that the wrongful conviction ‘raises questions of conduct by the police which is a serious matter and must be properly investigated’, while former police superintendent Bryan Rowe, whose investigation led to the appeal, said that police oversights and blunders bordered on ‘criminal offences’.
Nandor said this case is a question of more than apologies and compensation. While a Police Complaints Authority investigation would be helpful, because the PCA only looks at individual cases, a wide-ranging and independent investigation should be conducted into seriously inadequate police investigation practice.
Nandor is asking oral question number five on this issue in Parliament this afternoon