Police 'violated civil rights' at Ruatoki

By Juliet zRowan, Juliet Rowan

Auckland QC Peter Williams believes police committed a series of civil rights violations in carrying out last month's armed raids in Ruatoki.

Mr Williams spent three days interviewing people caught up in the raids on October 15 - a day locals are now calling "Black Monday" - and plans to file a complaint with the Commissioner of Police alleging officers acted illegally.

Mr Williams said yesterday he believed police violated civil rights when they detained people in Ruatoki without charge and searched and photographed others stopped at roadblocks.

"There's no legal authority for that sort of behaviour in this country."

Mr Williams, fellow lawyer Heeni Phillips and former police superintendent Michael Crawford travelled to the remote Bay of Plenty town to interview about 30 locals.

Mr Williams said the interviewees, mainly women, told stories of being ordered out of bed in the early hours of October 15 by police toting guns and wearing black commando gear.

"They were herded into either a shed or a prescribed area and all were kept under guard for a period of several hours."

Adults were not allowed to get food or blankets for hungry, crying children, and a girl as young as 15 was subjected to "an intimate body search", Mr Williams said.

People also told of their houses being trashed by police - including holes smashed in the ceilings - with no effort made to remedy the damage.

Mr Williams said none of the interviewees had been charged in the raids, which made their detainment illegal.

"There's no right in New Zealand to detain people unless you charge them with an offence and then they've got to be brought before the courts."

He also questioned the legality of three roadblocks where armed police ordered people out of their cars and photographed them "without consent".

He said the roadblocks were set up after the dawn raids when people were on their way to work, and among those stopped were employees of government organisations and a 76-year-old woman who lectured in Maori at a tertiary institution.

The legal team is seeking an explanation and an apology at the very least.

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