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Register Your Car Or We Take Your Baby We're from the Government and we're here to help.

Thuggery in Police Uniform

Words just about fail me on this story.  A disgrace to my sex, three carloads of cops bullying a teenage mother.  Just a gang of low-life thugs in my book, and that goes too for their spineless commander who ducks his responsibility behind "just following guidelines".

But of course the hidden story here is that vehicle registration fees are sky-rocketing beyond the ability of low-paid families to afford.  Why?  Because the ACC levy component is rising due to the increased road injuries caused by the catastrophic failure of rigid speed enforcement policies.

So the police are responsible for the whole sorry story here from start to finish.  Uncaring total incompetence reigns.  However, the subtext is also plain - when police powers are expanded, sooner or later they will be abused.

The last paragraph of the Star-Times report below is slightly garbled.  The offence of refusing to supply the name of the driver is not one for which the woman can be arrested, only given a summons.  The police attempted to manipulate the law so they could arrest her by claiming obstruction.   They eventually released her without charge, likely knowing that her arrest would be deemed illegitimate by a court.

The police would likely attempt to justify their actions by claiming they were investigating a burglary.  But Parliament has not given them the right to arrest anyone who doesn't tell them what they want to know. 

Following this incident, unsavoury further details of police thuggery in south Auckland and possibly elsewhere have been revealed in a recent court case (3 February 2005).   Police have instigated an investigation into what the judge described as a "sick police culture".   Meanwhile a district commander described police who leaked stories to the media as traitors who should be exposed in an internal memo to his staff, then hastily back-tracked when that memo was also leaked.

'Draconian' police threaten to take teen's baby

Sunday Star-Times
12 December 2004


Police handcuffed a young mother and threatened to put her baby in welfare care when she refused to tell them her partner's name, after they found his car was unregistered.

Police say they acted properly, but a top civil rights lawyer has labelled the episode illegal, draconian, repugnant and almost Stalinist.

Three carloads of officers on a burglary patrol descended on Christie Michael, 18, who is pregnant, soon after she arrived at her west Auckland home on Thursday morning with her baby daughter and sister. Her partner, who had been driving, had been picked up by a friend moments earlier.

Police say they had the right to arrest her for obstruction because she refused to name her partner - which was required under the Land Transport Act. Christie Michael said she was distraught during the incident. "I couldn't help crying. When someone says they are going to take your baby away . . . I just said 'You can't take my baby'."

Acting area police commander Inspector Rob Abbott said police acted according to guidelines and had no alternative but to arrest the woman after she was warned several times. Police often called in Child, Youth and Family (CYF) in such situations. "A custody area is not a suitable area for a child to be in."

The officers had seen the car pull out of Michael's mother's house 100m up the road minutes earlier. By the time the police car U-turned to follow the vehicle, the couple had parked outside their own home and Michael's partner, Karl Hastings, 31, had left. Michael, her nine-month-old daughter Kyla and 14-year-old sister Ella were getting out of the car when the officers approached. Michael said she believed she was not obliged to tell police who or where Hastings was and told her sister - who was being questioned separately - that she did not have to talk either.

When she remained silent, police arrested her for obstruction, handcuffed her hands behind her back, put her sister and baby daughter in another police car, and told her the children would be put into CYF care while she was in custody. She said despite her protests they then went through her handbag, found her house keys and used them to enter her home to verify her identity.

Police said they went into her house with her consent. Michael, who is four months' pregnant, said police removed her handcuffs when she told them she was feeling unwell with morning sickness and had to go to the toilet. Once in the property, she rang her sister-in-law, who contacted lawyer Christopher Harder. Michael said police departed when she told them Harder would be calling them. They left a $350 ticket for the unregistered car on its windscreen. "I'm disgusted by their behaviour," she said. "They kept saying I was stupid, to look what I was doing to my daughter. There was no need for it."

Harder said he had been instructed to sue police for unlawful arrest, unlawful detention of the children and an unlawful search of her home. "Even if she had committed some offence, you can't use coercion to make people talk."

Wellington civil rights lawyer Michael Bott said there was "no power on earth" that gave the police the right to treat the woman that way. "Is it the law in New Zealand now that if you drive an unregistered car, innocent passengers can be handcuffed and compelled to give evidence? It's a disgrace." He said obstruction was a charge handled by summons, not arrest.