Two police officers have been found not guilty of kidnapping a 17-year-old boy to end a young love affair.
Inspector Hurimoana Dennis, 52, and Sergeant Vaughan Perry, 45, have been on trial in the High Court at Auckland for the past two weeks before a jury and Justice Edwin Wylie.
Today, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty on all charges.
Justice Wylie told both men they were now free to go, which led to applause from the public gallery.
The officers were jointly charged with twice kidnapping the teen in 2015.
The young Auckland man, now 19, claimed the inspector and sergeant locked him in a prison cell, threatened him with a rape charge, and "deported" him to Australia to end his relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
The incidents occurred as the teens' families argued over the relationship, and after the boy's mother had filed a formal complaint with police about her son.
But Detective Sergeant Neil Hilton, the officer tasked with the complaint, found that no charges should be laid.
Dennis, a family friend and the police national Maori strategic adviser, organised a "mock arrest" to scare the teen off the relationship on May 5, 2015.
The teen was processed at the Auckland Central Police Station, as though he had been arrested by Dennis and duty custody sergeant Perry, the court heard.
During the trial the teen told the court that after he arrived at the police station a uniformed Dennis walked into an interview room and said he'd "taken over the case".
"I was speechless at this point - I was shocked," the teen said.
"Behind Hurimoana was also my mother and my grandfather, and they came to the interview room as well. And the officer who took me there left, he was rather shocked as well.
"He told me he had taken over this case from Neil Hilton ... I knew that there was something very wrong - I was a bit afraid once he said that. I knew that there had been things planned but I was all unaware of it."
The teen said Dennis then offered him two choices.
"He said to me I could either go to Australia; or option two, he would take me downstairs and I'd be charged for statutory rape," he said.
"At the time he said I'd serve a minimum of 14 years. At that point I was really scared."
At no time did Dennis read the teen his rights, the court heard.
The teen said he was racially abused by another officer in the cold cells, whom the Crown alleged was Perry, and placed opposite a "rapist".
"At that stage I broke, I broke down. Because I felt like at this point my relationship had been forced to be separated forever," the teen said.
Perry's lawyer Todd Simmonds said his client believed they were "role playing" and that it was a "consensual mock arrest".
The boy said Dennis then led him back to the interview room where a discussion was held about a flight the next morning to Australia, the boy said.
Authorised officer John Sieczkowski said he saw part of the mock arrest on CCTV monitors.
After agreeing to leave for Australia, the teen was escorted to Auckland Airport and placed on a flight to Sydney.
Under the Immigration Act a New Zealand citizen cannot be deported to another country at any time.
"Mission accomplished - he has broken [the teen], the 17-year-old Maori lad. Is this the [police policy] turning of the tide? Is this policing in action? Job done," Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey said of Dennis' actions.
Dennis said during his police interview, which was played to the court, that he was acting in accordance with police strategy to keep young Maori out of prison. It is a policy police refer to as the turning of the tide.
Stephen Bonnar QC said his client's career has been to help Maori youth and Maori offenders.
He said Dennis "deals with people with respect and heart" and the allegations were "completely contradictory and inconstant with the way this man acts in life".
On June 10, 2015, the teen decided to "escape" Sydney and return to New Zealand.
But the court heard that Dennis "swung into action" and organised for armed officers to meet him at Auckland Airport and escort him off the aircraft.
"'What are you doing back here, you're not meant to be back here until I tell you to come back. You are to go to Australia and live your new life - how many times do I have to tell you this?'" the teen said Dennis told him at the airport.
Under New Zealand law a citizen cannot be stopped from returning home.
After a couple of hours Dennis then placed the boy on another flight back to Australia.
"Several police officers ought to have done better. There were enough red flags," Dickey said.
After returning to Sydney, the teen claims he was assaulted before he fled to friends of his girlfriend's mum.
He then reported the scenario to New South Wales Police.
Dickey said Dennis' actions were "poor policing" and "takes us into the realm of an abuse of power and authority".
The inspector, who belongs to Rongowhakaata and Ngati Porou iwi and was also the chairman of Te Puea Marae in Mangere, was stood down from his duties in September 2015.
After the verdict Detective Superintendent Chris Page told the Herald that court "was the right place for this matter to be determined".
"This process represents how police hold ourselves to account and the expectations we have of our staff to act in line with our values and the high standards of behaviour expected by our communities," he said.
He could not comment on whether the officers would remain in their police roles going forward.
"We have an employment investigation under way and are therefore not in a position to make any further comment at this time."