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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Police conduct unlawful entries in Masterton and Dunedin

29 October 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found Police had no legal grounds to enter a house to arrest a man in Masterton on 12 March 2019, and that as a result, the arrest was unlawful.

At about 8.20pm on 12 March 2019 six Police officers arrived at the house to arrest the man for alleged breach of bail conditions, burglary and assault. They did not have a warrant for the arrest. He refused to come outside and Police became concerned he was trying to escape and may have had access to firearms, so they entered the house. A physical altercation followed as Police tried to put handcuffs on the man. A witness to the incident complained to Police about excessive use of force during the arrest, alleging that one of the officers appeared to be strangling the man.

The Authority has found that the officer was not strangling the man and that this use of force was justified as he was acting in self-defence, believing that the man was trying to grab his taser.

However, as a consequence of the arrest being unlawful, all other force used by Police during the attempted arrest was unlawful.

In another matter, the Authority has recently reviewed a Police investigation into a complaint of unlawful entry into a house in Dunedin. In that case, Police again did not have a warrant. When the man refused to come out of the house, he was told through a window that he was under arrest. He came to the door holding an axe handle. Police retreated and called the Armed Offenders Squad, who ultimately forced their way into the house to arrest the man and search the premises. Police have since acknowledged our finding that the entry into the house was unlawful.

The legal basis to enter a house without a warrant requires Police to have reasonable grounds to believe the person would leave the address to avoid arrest or the person may destroy, conceal, alter or damage evidence if entry is not affected immediately. Police did not have reasonable grounds to hold such a belief in either of these cases.

Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said "in these two cases Police acted on a wrong interpretation of their power to enter private property without a warrant. This led to substantial overreach and illegality in their use of this power."

Public Report
Police conduct unlawful entry to arrest man in Masterton (PDF 371 KB)
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