Hui being scheduled to discuss report on raids

By Abby Gillies, Rebecca Quilliam

Amongst the authority's recommendations for police was for the force to build bridges with the Ruatoki community. Photo / Alan Gibson
Amongst the authority's recommendations for police was for the force to build bridges with the Ruatoki community. Photo / Alan Gibson

A hui is being scheduled in Ruatoki to discuss a report that found police acted unlawfully during raids in the area six years ago.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority released a blistering report yesterday into police actions, which found officers were unjustified in establishing road blocks and detaining and searching some people during the raids.

Amongst the authority's recommendations for police was for the force to build bridges with the Ruatoki community.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said he apologised for mistakes but not for the investigation, which focused on alleged military-style training camps in the remote Urewera Forest in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

"We don't shy away from the investigation, we absolutely think the right thing was done in terms of the investigation," Mr Marshall said.

"We made mistakes, we went there in good faith and we got in wrong in a few areas in Ruatoki."

No police officers were disciplined as a result of mistakes made, he said.

Mr Marshall has been accused of downplaying the police actions by the community and a lawyer representing them.

The 2007 raids resulted in 18 people being arrested, four of which were left facing charges.

Te Komiti o Runga, which consists of two delegates from each of the nine hapu in the Ruatoki Valley, was planning to meet to discuss the IPCA findings, Radio New Zealand reported.

Tuhoe kuia Te Waiarangi Harawira said the report was unlikely to remedy anything as it had taken too long. But she said the report needed to be shared even if it did not change the way the community felt.

Peter Williams QC, who acted on behalf of people in the Tuhoe area, told RNZ the commissioner was not taking the report seriously enough.

He said armed officers trashed people's houses and intimidated innocent people, including children.

"These are ordinary decent people and they've been treated in a shocking manner."

He said there should be some kind of settlement such as the donation of a library for the children, because of police breaking the law.

The IPCA report said the detention of the occupants at five properties of the 41 properties raided was "unlawful and unreasonable".

Police were also criticised for the unnecessary stopping and searching of vehicles and taking 66 photos of drivers and passengers, including children. It left some people feeling "degraded and intimidated".

Prime Minister John Key said the Government was taking advice on whether it needed to apologise to the Tuhoe people.

He said he doubted those detained illegally would receive any compensation.

Lawyer Russell Fairbrother, whose client Tame Iti was one of those convicted after the raids, told Radio New Zealand three groups of people could claim for compensation.

"There is the group who had totally nothing to do with the activities in the bush; they are the people going about their lawful business on the road from 6am until about midday on the 15th of October 2007.

"They were effectively kidnapped, they were held at gunpoint, they were forced to do things - those people have claims under what we call our law of torts, for detention, for unlawful arrest, for assault, possibly."

Mr Fairbrother said they also had a claim under the Bill of Rights, which ensured nobody should be the subject of arbitrary detention. "So those people have a substantial claim."

The second group who could claim compensation were those who were at houses the police searched looking for suspects or for evidence.

"Those people who were detained, some for a short period, some for what appears to be many hours, have similar claims for unlawful detention, unlawful arrest and under the Bill of Rights," Mr Fairbrother told RNZ.

"And then there's the third group; those who were arrested and their situation gets a little bit more refined and that position needs to be considered one at a time."

He said the first two groups would be entitled to compensation for damage to their house, their clothes and possibly for lost wages.

"They'd also be entitled to what's called damages, which don't have an objective assessment but a subjective assessment to reflect the trauma they might have suffered and the degree of mistake made by the police when they went about their work."

Mr Fairbrother said compensation could be negotiated between police and the affected parties, and could be completed by the end of the year.

One of the residents caught up in the Urewera police raids of 2007 said the community remained affected six years later.

A Ruatoki resident told Radio New Zealand the community had suffered long-term effects of the raids.

"It's been six years since that raid but it's still fresh in our minds. I can still remember every single detail that happened that day," she said.

The woman was living next door to a house where a raid took place, and tried to help children inside.

"At that time when we saw the police and Armed Offenders Squad all running from my house to the residents at the back of the house ... at the same time we saw the uncle and cousin getting arrested, being taken out of the house and we could hear the children screaming," she told RNZ.

She asked a police officer if she could go onto the property to get the children "and they just said to us 'no, you cannot'."

About an hour later when she was able to get to the children they were "traumatised" and remained affected by what happened, she said.

"They're still traumatised - the way they act around when they see police, armed offenders, police cars, anything to do with police."

The woman said money and apologies couldn't change what happened to the community.

- APNZ

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