By SCOTT MacLEOD
The Privy Council has ruled that Sir Robert Jones can sue New Zealand police over a dispute between him and a constable in a Petone street.
This comes three years after Constable Kim Dankl pulled over the millionaire property developer in his red Jaguar for allegedly twice drifting over a centre line in Waione St.
Sir Robert contends there was no centre line, that he was detained for so long his family had to drive to an airport without him, and that the constable was "taking the piss".
He is suing police for $210,000 for alleged unlawful detention, arbitrary detention, false imprisonment, unreasonable search and seizure, negligence and misfeasance in public office. The police went to the High Court and Court of Appeal to have the case thrown out, but Sir Robert went one court higher and the Privy Council ruled on Thursday he had the right to sue.
Sir Robert was yesterday pleased with the ruling but "pissed off" with police for spending tens of thousands in taxpayer cash trying to stop a civil case that would probably take just one day to be heard in court.
He said he did not care about the $210,000, but would push ahead with his claim on behalf of any other citizens who had gone through similar ordeals and who could not afford to sue.
"It was disgraceful, for Christ's sake," said Sir Robert, a boxing enthusiast.
A spokesman for Police Commissioner Rob Robinson would not respond to Sir Robert's allegations because, he said, the Privy Council ruling had only just been received and was yet to be digested.
The five Privy Council judges found that Justice Sir Kenneth Keith, Justice Peter Blanchard and Justice Thomas Gault of the NZ Court of Appeal were wrong to stop Sir Robert pursuing his case.
Although the case could be seen as "minor and mundane", no alleged abuse of police power was ever trivial. "It is a serious thing to stop a plaintiff bringing his claim to trial unless it is quite clearly hopeless," they said. "That exacting test is not satisfied in this case."
Sir Robert said the council ruling showed the importance of recourse to "an ultimate court of appeal" that was based overseas, away from domestic prejudices.
The Government wants to abolish a New Zealander's right to appeal to the council, replacing it with a supreme court with local judges.
Kim Dankl is now a family violence co-ordinator for Lower Hutt police.
She said last night that she respected the council's decision.
Although she "would rather not have to go through this", Sir Robert had the right to pursue his case.
By SCOTT MacLEOD