The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police unlawfully entered a Bay of Plenty home on 2 November 2020.
Following an encounter with Ms X, a woman asked Police to serve Ms X with a trespass notice.
Three officers went to Ms X’s home and knocked on her front door. Ms X did not wish to speak with them, so did not answer. When Ms X heard the officers opening her back gate, she was alarmed and fled into the bathroom, locking herself in. The officers entered her home through the unlocked kitchen door, without a warrant.
Ms X complained the officers unlawfully entered her home.
At first, Police told us the officers lawfully entered Ms X’s home under section 14 of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012. Police said they had reasonable grounds to suspect a risk to the life or safety of Ms X that required an emergency response.
We independently investigated Ms X’s complaint. We found, and Police now accept, that the officers unlawfully entered Ms X’s home.
The officers did not have the necessary information to form a reasonable suspicion that Ms X’s life or safety was at risk and that they needed to urgently respond, which would justify a warrantless entry under section 14 of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012. No other power made their entry lawful.
The Authority also found the Police staff involved were ill-equipped to effectively respond to mental health crises, despite being routinely called upon to do so.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty says “The officers did not have substantive information indicating Ms X’s life or safety was at risk. Their perceptions were coloured by the fact they are often asked to respond to suicide and self-harm incidents. Those incidents remained fresh in the minds of the officers. Although the actions of the officers were unlawful, they were not uncaring.”