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Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Thousands of wanted suspects on the run

A warrant is usually issued by a judge when a person facing criminal charges fails to appear in court or breaches bail conditions. Photo / Getty Images
A warrant is usually issued by a judge when a person facing criminal charges fails to appear in court or breaches bail conditions. Photo / Getty Images

More than 17,000 people throughout New Zealand are wanted on arrest warrants and are evading police.

Most of the warrants were issued in the Auckland area.

Ministry of Justice figures show that on June 30, 17,655 people had outstanding warrants against them, some dating as far back as January 2004.

Of those, 9059 were wanted in Auckland - 5023 in the city area, 2100 in Waitemata and 1936 in Counties Manukau.

A warrant is usually issued by a judge when a person facing criminal charges fails to appear in court or breaches bail conditions.

It may also be issued for the arrest of a person suspected of a crime, but still at large.

Some of the wanted people are facing serious charges and are described by police as dangerous.

These include Levi Hemana, 18, who is wanted for burglary, escaping police, wilful damage, wilful trespass, breaches of bail and community work and failing to appear in court.

A police source said Hemana had a history of arson, and described him as a "high-risk offender" in the Waitemata area.

Samuel Lovering has two warrants for his arrest on charges of assaulting a child with intent to injure and wilful damage. He is from the North Shore and police have issued a warning that he should not be approached.

Police in Mt Wellington are on the hunt for Bodi McKee, who is facing numerous charges and has two warrants out for his arrest.

But the force took one man off its wanted list after he was charged with murder at the weekend.

The unemployed West Aucklander was one of two men arrested on Saturday and charged with killing Helensville father of three Lee Ross McMurdo.

He was wanted by police on other charges, and the Herald understands a warrant had been out for his arrest for some time.

The man, in his 20s, will appear in the North Shore District Court today with the other man, jointly charged with murder.

Mr McMurdo, 32, was found dead at his Helensville home by his 12-year-old daughter in July last year.

National crime manager Detective Superintendent Rod Drew said police would prefer people to attend court when required, rather than officers having to chase them.

"But if they fail to appear and a warrant to arrest is issued, then it's a very valid police role to find them and bring them back to justice," he said.

"The two main reasons for that are to satisfy and reassure the victims of their crime, and also to reduce their potential for further offending."

"More important" offenders were hunted more vigorously.

Mr Drew said people often moved from the area where they were facing arrest and did not commit further offences, meaning they did not come to police attention.

The Ministry of Justice's district courts general manager, Tony Fisher, said at least 40,000 warrants were issued each year.

The figures also showed that 15 people were wanted on warrants for homicide and related offences including manslaughter, attempted murder and driving causing death.

Mr Drew said that did not mean 15 murderers were wandering freely around New Zealand.

None of the outstanding homicide warrants related to offenders in New Zealand.

They were people who had fled overseas, and who were not a danger to the public.

A further 1397 people were wanted for failing to appear on violence charges, including various assaults and other acts intended to cause injury, and 152 were wanted on sexual assault charges.

Mr Drew said people gave police many different reasons for not appearing in court.

"Sometimes it's simply poor organisation or a lack of discipline. There are people fleeing to evade justice.

"There are also those trying to delay the inevitable punishment by putting it off ... There is quite a wide range of reasons."

- NZ Herald

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