Two police officers who stopped an Isuzu vehicle that was displaying 'sovereignty' registration plates in Kaitaia's main street on Thursday night weren't quite expecting the reaction they got.

"All hell broke loose," one of the officers said, after the driver, a 51-year-old Fairfield man, who was accompanied by approximately five children, none of whom were restrained, and a woman, unsuccessfully claimed immunity on the grounds of sovereignty.

He refused to undergo an alcohol breath screening test, and at one point backed the vehicle into a police car, doing minor damage.

He then locked himself inside his vehicle and armed himself with a taiaha.

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By that time the children were screaming, the officers deciding to make no further attempt to detain the man, although he was summonsed for careless driving and refusing to accompany.

Acting Senior Sergeant Sarah Wihongi said behaving in that manner was not a good tactic.

It would generally result only in the laying of further charges, but on this occasion the officers had done exactly the right thing.