Sunday programme over its story about an autistic man accused of looting in the wake of t' />

TVNZ is "surprised" at a police decision to investigate its Sunday programme over its story about an autistic man accused of looting in the wake of the Christchurch quake.

Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp, 25, became the "face of looting" when he was arrested for allegedly stealing light-fittings from a quake-damaged Lincoln Road property after the February 22 earthquake.

Last week he pleaded not guilty to two charges of burglary of a damaged property and possession of tools for burglary.

He told Sunday his mental disability compelled him to take the light fixtures.

"When Asperger's syndrome takes over your brain ... you don't listen, you just focus on one thing," he told Sunday.

Christchurch Central Police Area Commander Inspector Derek Erasmus watched the Sunday story last night and confirmed the programme was being investigated.

"Police confirm that they are investigating the actions of the Sunday programme in relation to their dealings with parties in the case.

"The matter remains before the court and we will not make any further comment at this stage."

TVNZ's head of current affairs Anthony Flannery this evening said he was surprised by that decision and backed the Sunday story on Mr Smith-Voorkamp.

The programme had adhered to the "highest broadcast standards and journalism ethics", he said.

"We believe Arie Smith-Voorkamp's story is of genuine public interest and deserved to be told.

"TVNZ stands by the story and the integrity and conduct of Sunday's staff.

"We are confident the Sunday team dealt honestly, openly and fairly with people involved in the case."

Mr Smith-Voorkamp has alleged he was assaulted at the time of his arrest.

He told Sunday he was "too scared to go out" as a result of the incident.

His friend Michael Davis alleged Mr Smith-Voorkamp was elbowed in the face by police, resulting in the facial injuries seen in his first court appearance.

However, police say claims he was assaulted are "completely incorrect".

"They can deny, deny, deny, but I've seen what I saw and that there was physical assault," Mr Davis told Sunday.

"They treated him like a common animal."

Mr Davis said the police also taunted Mr Smith-Voorkamp because of his mental disabilities.

Mr Smith-Voorkamp was denied bail and held for 11 days, and has since been denied diversion on three occasions despite Judge John Strettell asking them to consider it.

The Sunday piece on Mr Smith-Voorkamp can be viewed here.