26 November 2015
An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today has found that Police unlawfully searched a New Plymouth man’s home.
On the evening of 31 October 2014, New Plymouth Police officers responded to a report of a domestic assault by a known violent offender.
Witnesses believed that they had seen the offender inside a nearby property.
A dog handler, with his dog, entered the back door of the property unannounced without identifying himself to the occupant. The occupant and his dog were taken by surprise, and a dog fight immediately started.
When the occupant’s dog continued to attack the Police dog, an officer used pepper spray to control it. The officers then entered the home and searched it.
The offender was not located in the property, and there was no evidence that the occupant was involved in the matter.
The occupant complained to the Authority about the search of his home and the treatment of his dog.
In releasing this report, Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said that the officers failed to comply with the strict requirements of the Search and Surveillance Act because they did not give the occupant the right to refuse to consent to the search, and the dog handler failed to identify himself by name. The search was therefore unlawful.
However, the use of pepper spray on the dog was justified in the circumstances because the occupant could not control his dog.
“As Police were searching for a dangerous and violent man, it was important for the dog to be under control so that a dog fight did not distract them from the Police operation.” Sir David said.
“This case serves as a reminder to Police to know and comply with the strict requirements of the Search and Surveillance Act” Sir David said. “This Act gives Police the power to intrude into people’s private spaces when circumstances permit. However, as a balance to this power, the law requires these people to be informed of their rights when such an intrusion occurs. It is crucial that Police strictly adhere to these requirements in all but the most extraordinary situations.”
Complaint of excessive use of force and unlawful entry to a property in New Plymouth (PDF 467 kb)