Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 15. 1969.
Students are too well treated by both the police and the Courts, claims the New Zealand Police Association, the "trade union" of the New Zealand Police.
"There is a general feeling that the Courts are too kind to students". Mr D. C. Lee, the General Secretary of the Police Association, told NZSPA.
He was repealing the theme of an editorial in a recent issue of the association's news-letter, entitled "Liberty or Licence?", which said that "recent student excesses, particularly during Capping week celebrations are rapidly changing the climate of public opinion against them, even in this so-called "permissive society" we seem to have obtained.
"The Court", said the editorial. "have generally been over-tolerant towards student's. The inconsistency can be amply demonstrated throughout the country.
"Recently one Magistrate in discharging a law student thief without conviction, refused suppression of his name, saving that the Law Society should know what they are getting.
"This suggests that the profession should still find him acceptable because he has no conviction, but apart from that, would a labourer have got this preferential treatment? Other examples are endless.
"On the other hand, and more encouraging, another magistrate was reported as saying that 'students who got themselves into trouble when they should have the sense to know better could hardly expect the Court to treat them differently from other members of the community?
"Our standards may be changing, but an offence is an offence no matter who commits it. Surely things have got to a sorry stage when one of the students involved in the latter case can quite seriously claim, after having unlawfully converted a vehicle, that he thought that the police would not treat it as a criminal matter.
"Serious students who are not playing around with their opportunities do not have the time to blow up Waitangi flagpoles, convert vehicles, dabble in drugs, or publish obscenities, With the spotlight on the cost of our educational system, isn't the taxpayer entitled to ask that where students on public bursaries are involved in criminal activities their bursaries be cancelled?"
The editorial also refers to what it calls "public drinking orgies (mostly by under-age students)" and the apparently associated evils of damage to property and the slate of capping processions.
"Why", asks the editorial, "should floats for example be vetted for obscenities by the police?'", and it goes on to claim that this is a "service" which it compares with warning a thief about to commit a burglary!
Mr Lee, who is himself a graduate part-time student studying for an L.I.M. at Victoria, said that he felt the attitude of many students was completely wrong, When they plead to a magistrate the damage that a conviction would do their careers, they have a totally wrong approach.
"A student can't afford to jeopardise his career". Mr Lee said. "If he holds it dearly, he must learn that the professions demand standards, and lack of a criminal past is usually one."
If students were really concerned about their futures, he said, they would not be before the courts in the first place.
The editorial suggested that lecturers may play a part in bringing students into conflict with the police. It said:
"Undoubtedly a minority or more aptly the "lunatic fringe' (sometimes actively supported by their mentors) is responsible for most incidents, and as with most identifiable groups, the inevitable result is that the majority have to endure indiscriminate blame."
Commenting on this statement Mr Lee told NZSPA that the individual policeman's attitude was very important.
"The approach in one student should not be on the basis that they are all trouble-makers", he said.
NZUSA president Mr Peter Rosier agreed with the general contention of the Police Association that the courts give students a better deal than the general public, and said: "I am unable to defend this inequality of treatment."
He suggested that by over-emphasising this matter, the wider issues of criminology might be being ignored. He believed that students formed only a very small proportion of those coming into contact with the police.
Referring to last year's opening of parliament disturbances. Mr Rosier said that all the rioters were lumped together, "and the papers called them students."
Mr Rosier said that he was sure many of those concerned were not students, and it was unjust that blame for their activities should fall on a particular section of the community through careless reporting.
He said he had noticed that the news media tended to refer to many different classes of persons as "students", and said that NZUSA would be considering the suggestion which had been made they should make representations to the appropriate authorities on this matter.
(The Labourers' Union is understood to have protested earlier at the indiscriminate labelling of arrested persons as "labourers" on police charge sheets, and as a result, those who are not members of the union are now classified as "workmen".)
The Police Association statements coincide with what one Wellington lawyer called "a general hardening of attitudes towards student offenders".
This was exemplified by the latest issue of Truth, which criticised the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr Hanan, as well as the Secretary for Justice. Dr Robson, for what it considered to be over-lenient attitudes.
Though the newsletter referred to the police as having "been well served for many years" by various ministers of justice, it was elsewhere noted that the courts depend upon Parliament for indications as to maximum penalties for various crimes.
But in the main it was the courts which suffered the association's strictures.
"In the final analysis the courts will rule on the matter and herein lies the dilemma for the police," the editorial said.