The officer met the youth when he stopped a car full of young people just before midnight, suspecting the driver was breaching her licence. The youth was a passenger in the car, and gave the officer a false name. The youth was not legally required to give the officer his name, but the officer insisted.
When the officer checked the Police database and found the youth’s true identity, he realised the youth was breaching a condition of bail set by the Court that he observe a curfew. The youth’s age (17) was also in the database, but the officer did not note this information. The age was important because an officer may only arrest a young person who has breached Youth Court bail “on 2 or more previous occasions” (Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, section 214A). This was the youth’s first breach.
The officer entered a house in search of the youth. The Authority determined this was unlawful because the officer did not obtain the occupier’s informed consent to enter.
The youth fled, and the officer tracked him with his Police dog. The officer caught up to the youth as he entered some bushes, and released the dog. The dog bit the youth on both arms. A witness overheard the arrest, and complained to the Authority that the officer had used excessive force on the youth.
“The youth’s arrest was unlawful because the officer did not have reasonable cause to treat the youth as an adult and arrest him for his first breach of bail. Nor did the officer have cause to arrest the youth to prevent further offending. It follows that the officer’s use of the Police dog to effect the arrest was also unlawful. The officer does not have a legal defence of using force ‘in good faith’ to carry out an unlawful arrest” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The Authority determined that, even if the officer had had legal cause to arrest the youth, he was not justified in commanding the dog to bite him. It was not reasonable or proportionate to the seriousness of the youth’s breach of curfew, the need to detain him to bring him to justice, or the degree and severity of risk he posed if he escaped.
The Authority also found that the officer spoke to the youth and the witness in an unprofessional manner. Police have addressed this issue with the officer.