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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Use of force when serving a trespass notice in Lower Hutt

16 November 2017

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police unlawfully arrested, and used unjustified force on, a man in Lower Hutt on 23 December 2015.

In October 2016 the man complained to the Authority that Police had used excessive force on him during the arrest, which occurred while the officers were attempting to serve a trespass notice on him.

After the man refused to discuss the trespass notice and tried to close a door on one of the officers, that officer sprayed him with pepper spray. The man was then arrested for common assault and removed from the building by Police.

The man complained that the officer who pepper-sprayed him had also kicked him, and deliberately forced his arm up behind his back as he was being led away. The Authority determined that the officer did not kick the man and that the force the officers used to escort the man from the building was not excessive.

However, the Authority found that the man had clearly revoked the officers’ authority to remain on the premises when he attempted to close the door on them, and was entitled under section 56 of the Crimes Act 1961 to use reasonable force to prevent the officers from trespassing in the place he occupied.

Therefore it was unlawful for the officers to arrest the man. Consequently the force used to escort the man outside the building was unlawful in the circumstances, as was the use of the pepper spray.

The man was subsequently acquitted of the assault charge.

“The Authority is of the view that this incident deteriorated unnecessarily and that the officers should have taken a different approach when it became clear the man did not want them on the premises. The officers should have considered dropping the trespass notice at the man’s feet, without the need for things to escalate as they did” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

The Authority also found that Police provided the man with appropriate aftercare for the pepper spray.

Public Report


Use of force when serving a trespass notice in Lower Hutt (PDF, 468 kb)
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