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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Allegation that officers planted evidence in Ashburton

13 June 2019


The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that it is unlikely two Ashburton officers planted evidence by placing a man's wallet in a bag containing drugs. However, lapses in good practices created a situation where it was difficult for these officers to corroborate their version of events.

On 15 May 2017, Police searched a car in which Mr X was the front seat passenger, and found a 'bum bag' on the centre console containing a small quantity of white crystals. The bum bag was photographed in the car, but the photographs did not clearly show whether Mr X's wallet was also inside.

Mr X was taken to Ashburton Police Station, searched and temporarily put into a cell. The bum bag and its contents (and other items from the car) were set aside while both officers drove Mr X to Dunsandel and handed him over into the custody of Christchurch-based officers.

Upon returning to Ashburton Police Station, one of the officers went to process and photograph the exhibits. He said he found Mr X's wallet in the bum bag, along with what was later determined to be methamphetamine.

Mr X was charged with possessing methamphetamine. At trial, he stated that the bum bag and drugs were not his, and he had given his wallet to one of the officers after it was found in his trouser pocket during the handover in Dunsandel. He said he believed the Ashburton officers had then planted his wallet in the bum bag to incriminate him.

The officers denied this, but were poorly prepared for the court hearing and provided contradictory and inaccurate evidence. The Judge was critical of the officers' evidence, and dismissed the charge.

The Authority found that the officers did not correctly follow Police procedures when they arrested Mr X and seized the bum bag.

However, the Authority found that Mr X's evidence about what happened at Ashburton Police Station was unreliable, and concluded on balance that it was likely Mr X's wallet had always been in the bum bag.

"This incident demonstrates why it is important for officers to follow correct procedures and practices, and to properly prepare when giving evidence in court. By failing to do either adequately, these officers put themselves in a position where their integrity was publicly called into question. This is a salutary lesson for all officers to maintain high professional standards at all times" said Authority General Manager, Warren Young.

Public Report

Allegation that evidence was planted by Police officers in Ashburton (PDF 328 KB)

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