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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Review of Police strip search of a prisoner

14 January 2020

The Authority oversaw the Police investigation into a complaint where it was alleged Police staff sexually violated a prisoner during a strip search. The complainant also said Police staff had used O/C spray ("pepper spray") against her and had not decontaminated her before she was transported to a Corrections facility.

The prisoner reportedly placed an item in her underwear after being asked to hand it over to Police. This resulted in staff undertaking a strip search to recover the property. The prisoner alleged one of the staff members sexually assaulted her to remove the item.

During the subsequent criminal investigation, the complainant refused to take part in an interview or make a formal statement. The investigation pursued all reasonable avenues but could not find sufficient cogent evidence to prove the allegation of sexual offending.

The Authority also oversaw a Police policy and practice District review of the strip search. The review found the strip search was justified and conducted in a manner which was consistent with legislation and Police Policy. The use of the O/C spray was also considered, and the Police records showed the complainant was offered aftercare for the effects of the spray, but refused. The Authority agreed with the outcome of the review.

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