Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No 21. August 28, 1974

A summary of the N.Z.U.S.A. Submission On

page 6

A summary of the N.Z.U.S.A. Submission On

"The malicious hoodlums masquerading under the guise of the Drug Squad deserve no sanction... they undertake the violation of basic human rights, destruction of private property, criminal forced entry, search without warrant.... wrongful arrest and subsequent holding without legal counsel, forceful intimidation...... planting of "evidence", paying of informers to give false information, supplying of narcotics to arrest the person to whom they are sold, molesting of women, threats, tapping of telephones, constant shadowing and photographing of suspects, harrassment, personal searches on the streets, beatings for not admitting to crimes and farming of crimes — and on and on it goes."

The quote is taken from the NZUSA submission on the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Bill which NZUSA General Vice-President John Blincoe and others presented to a Parliamentary Select Committee on August 13.

The remarks, made by a drug-user who was undertaking methadone maintenance treatment, were included in the submissions to give the committee an idea of the impression that drug squads leave on a person involved with them.

The main thrust of the submissions lies in this area — the behaviour of the police, particularly the infringement of civil liberties, in dealing with suspected drug users.

The submissions contain several examples of such infringements, and harrassment by the police under the Narcotics Act 1965

For example: "A arrived home to find two Drug Squad detectives in his kitchen with a warrant to search. The detectives attempted to question A, but A refused to answer the questions put to him (as he was lawfully entitled to do). One of the detectives then phoned his superior. Detective B. While his superior was coming around to the flat, Detective C threatened to "smash up" A unless he answered questions. Detective B asked A to go down to the Central Police Station under the impression that he would be arrested when he got there. A remained at the Police Station under the impression that he was being detained for questioning. However, he was not questioned or arrested, and after about half an hour Detective B told him he could go.

"The main points of this case are:
1)The threat of the use of violence against a member of the public for doing no more than asserting one of his most fundamental civil rights — the right to maintain silence.
2)The detention of a suspect when clearly there were no grounds for arresting him. This was quite illegal.
Cartoon by R. Cobb

A rising new cause of severe brain damage: narcotics officers.

And: "Four drug squad personnel raided a flat at 6.15am one morning with a search warrant made out for lysergide. The raid resulted in two smashed-in doors and the police removing $740 without leaving a receipt. The police found two bedroom doors to be locked and broke both of them down. One room was unoccupied and the girl asleep in the other was not given time to get up and open the door.

"Members of the flat protested about the unnecessarily caused damage. One of the policemen then asked if there was a hammer in the house. He was given one which he handed to one of the other officers who made a token effort to nail one of the door frames back into place. The other was left in a splintered condition. Neither could be locked or shut properly.

"In the locked but unoccupied bedroom the Police found $740. They took this money because, they said, it was a large sum and might have been stolen. They said that when the money's owner returned to the city, he could go to the Central Police Station and claim it. One of the policemen said he would give members of the flat a note in his name for the money. This consisted of "Detective D, Central Police Station". There was no mention of the money in the note.

"The members of the flat who were present were not permitted to count the money or even see it. A request for a proper receipt was refused. The conversation with one of the detectives concerning this request has been recalled by one of the flat members.

Detective D: Well, we'll be off now.

Flatmate E: Could we have a receipt for the stuff you're taking?

Detective D: Oh, you'll get it back.

Flatmate E: That's all very well to say — what have you got there?

Flatmate F: They reckon they've got $700 of (Flatmate H's).

Flatmate E: Well. I want to count it at least, if you're going to refuse to give me a receipt.

Flatmate G: We've got a right to a receipt.

Detective D: No.

Flatmate E: I demand a receipt for the money and the other things you've got.

Detective D: No.

Flatmate E: You're a smart aleck bunch of bastards aren't you. It's my right that I have a receipt for that money. You're no better than thieves.

Detective D: You watch yourself sonny. I could do you easily so don't talk to us like that. Anyway, it's not your money.

Flatmate E: That's true, but it's in my custody and I still demand my right to a receipt.

The policemen then left, still without issuing a proper receipt."

"The main points of this case are:
1)The disregard by Drug Squad personnel for private property through a) causing quite unnecessary damage (for which no compensation is payable); and b) quite unreasonably and unlawfully refusing to acknowledge their removal of private property, especially money.
2)The direct personal intimidation employed by a Drug Squad detective. Here a member of the public was threatened with prosecution for getting angry with a policeman who had unreasonably rejected a proper lawful request from him."

Example: "One morning two detectives arrived at K's flat and were met by K's female flatmate J, who insisted that they show her their credentials. They entered, apparently of their own volition, and took a casual look around the premises. It is improbable that they had a search warrant. They went into J's room, making sexual innuendos as they went about who was sleeping with who in the flat. On a mantelpiece in J's room they found a container of medication for methadone maintenance, still wrapped in a pharmacist's paper bag. J explained that flatmate K had left it there by mistake. The detectives knew that K was on methadone maintenance treatment. Nonetheless, the detectives told H that they might charge her for possession of a narcotic. They asked where she worked and said they might contact her within the next few days. The detectives then uplifted the medication and left.

"Two days later they came back to return the medication to its lawful owner K. Upon being challenged by K for threatening to charge J, they informed him that they did not intend to charge J but were only trying to give her a scare.

"The main points of this case are:
1)The confiscation by the Police for two days of K's medication even though they were fully aware that the following day K would be caused considerable distress through not having it. As it happened, K was forced to obtain his next daily ration of methadone illegally. This shows a callous lack of regard for the welfare of the drug dependent person concerned.
2)The way in which J was threatened with prosecution. This amounted to intimidation and mental cruelty, and reveals ethical standards of the lowest kind."

Example: "L was a registered drug addict on methadone maintenance treatment. She was in her early 30s and was making a sincere attempt to break her dependency. Being quite a creative person, she was involving herself in social work and learning another language. However, her rehabilitation was severely jeopardised by the constant attention she attracted from the Drug Squad, and occasionally other policemen, in connection with her drug dependency. It is fair to say that she was harrassed. Over one two-week period, for instance, the Police contacted her once or twice nearly every day. They would either visit her at home or phone her at work or at home. If she was out they would sometimes leave a message asking her to ring them. There were also occasions when they told her to expect a visit from them and then did not come. On at least three occasions, searches for narcotics were conducted at her home but nothing was found.

"There was no visible justification in terms of the enforcement of the law for the constant attention the Police paid L. However according to those who lived with her (who were not drug users) it was quite devastating on her personal development. The harrassment caused her to become mentally and physically run down and quite useless in terms of her own creative ability or the social work or language learning activities in which she had been involving herself. The harrassment was also they believe a major factor in a number of unsuccessful suicide attempts made by L. In short, those who lived with her believed that her plans for rehabilitating herself were wrecked by Police activity

"The harrassment stopped eventually, but only after L's solicitor had threatened to obtain a court injunction to restrain Police activity."

With regard to such examples NZUSA recommends that a judicial enquiry be held into the activities, methods and operation of the various Drug Squads, especially those in the main centres.

"NZUSA feels much might be achieved if the Police were to become an agency primarily concerned with discovering people with drug problems and passing them on to those who could help them. This is not the case at present and it cannot be the case while the Drug Squads continue to operate as they do."

The tendency of the police to place members of the force in a position of responsibility in relation to drug offenders, for long periods of time, is also criticised. Policemen may be pressured for results, leading to over-enthusiasm and aggressiveness. And consequently results become more important than operating within the law.

Because of this NZUSA also recommends that the police impose an arbitrary limit on time during which an officer may be engaged in drug squad work.

NZUSA urges the deletion of Clause 17(2) of the new bill which provides for search without warrant. It makes an unnecessary and distasteful exception to the common law rule upholding the inviolability of a person's home. NZUSA is also concerned by the further power given the police by the subclause, to search any person found on the premises, in question.

On March 7, the Minister of Police, Mr Connelly stated in the House that the power relating to search without warrant had been exercised on 56 occasions. Prohibited drugs had been found on 45 occasions. This statement was made apparently to justify the use of such powers.

However the Minister's figure takes no account of the times the Police have threatened to use the power but have not formally invoked it. An occupant of a house is more likely to agree to a search rather than force the police to make a violent entry:

"The members of the police specially responsible for administering the drug laws are not renowned for their integrity or sense of fair play."

Most people are only vaguely aware of the rights and powers of the police. Many people are reluctant to challenge police action for fear of the consequences.

Young people resent the existence of such an extraordinary power of search without warrant whether it is abused or not (and NZUSA believes it is abused). In this case the onus to justify this power is on the police — the agency which feels the power is necessary.

NZUSA challenges the police to do so, but frankly believes they cannot.

NZUSA also calls for the deletion of clause 17(1) which gives the Police an automatic power to search person found on premises being searched with a warrant issued under Clause 17(1). Normally under New Zealand law a person can only be searched if he has first been arrested.

What is a Criminal?

What is a Criminal?