Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Lawsuits loom over dawn raid

Young girl alleges ordeal at police gunpoint

The teen's barrister, Charl Hirschfeld. Photo / Natalie Slade
The teen's barrister, Charl Hirschfeld. Photo / Natalie Slade

A teenager, who says she was forced to her knees at police gunpoint during the 2007 Urewera terror raids, is suing the Police Commissioner for $200,000.

The teen's barrister, Charl Hirschfeld, said she told him she was taken from her grandmother during a dawn raid of their South Auckland home. It's claimed the then 12-year-old was on the ground with her hands behind her head for up to 50 minutes.

Hirschfeld is also acting for five adult members of the teenager's family who are suing the Attorney-General for $100,000 each for a breach of civil rights after being detained during the same incident.

Other allegations include police interrogated the pyjama-clad girl as light rain fell, asking her, "Do you know any terrorists?"

"The absurdity of this is breathtaking," Hirschfeld said. "The barrels of the guns are pointed at (the girl's) head."

Neither police nor Attorney-General Chris Finlayson would comment while the claims are before the courts.

Hirschfeld said the teen's claim was lodged a year ago, while those of her family were filed in the High Court at Auckland on October 14, but they were likely to be heard together.

The compensation claims are believed to be the only ones as a result of the terror raids and before the October 15 deadline when the statute of limitations prevented further claims, he said.

The raid on the family's home was one of several launched simultaneously around the country on October 15, 2007, amid fears military-style training camps were being run in the Urewera Ranges.

Eighteen people were arrested and five eventually were charged.

One died before trial and the remaining defendants, including Tuhoe activist Tame Iti, were found guilty of firearms charges. Jurors were not able to reach a decision on the lead charge of belonging to an organised criminal group.

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released in May found officers set up illegal roadblocks, intimidated innocent residents and unlawfully detained people at five properties. Police Commissioner Peter Marshall apologised but no officers were disciplined.

The South Auckland family's home was one of the five properties cited in the report, Hirschfeld said.

The seven people in the house at the time of the raid realised something was happening only when red laser lights from police rifles appeared through windows.

Police identified themselves via megaphone and the family, including a pensioner, followed instructions to leave the house, emerging to a lawn illuminated with searchlights and surrounded by armed police and dogs, he said.

The girl's grandmother had tried to comfort her, but was forcibly removed and told to "shut up and turn around".

"As you can imagine (the child's) the one who knows the least and understands the least about what is going on ... no concessions were made for her."

All those in the house were told to kneel with their hands behind their heads, and questioned.

The family later went to a police station, but only one member, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, was charged and convicted of firearms charges.

- Herald on Sunday

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