Mock arrest of teenager was tikanga
A police officer who allegedly kidnapped a teenager has described his actions as being in line with a Wha¯nau Ora strategy to reduce Ma¯ ori crime.
Inspector Hurimoana Dennis and Sergeant Vaughan Perry are on trial in the High Court at Auckland over the mock arrest of the then 17-year-old, who has name suppression.
Yesterday, a statement given by Perry was read by Detective Malcolm Spence, who investigated the May 2015 incident.
Perry was the sergeant on duty at the Auckland Central police station when the teen was processed and locked in a cell as if he had been arrested.
The Crown alleges the 17-yearold was given an ultimatum by Dennis in the cells – start a new life in Australia without his
15-year-old girlfriend, or be charged with statutory rape.
Dennis was a family friend and the mock arrest occurred over concerns the teen was having underage sex.
The next day, the teenager was allegedly put on a plane to Australia, believing he had no other choice.
In his statement, Perry said his supervisor had approved a visit by Dennis to take the teen through the cells.
He said Dennis was ‘‘trying to use the Ma¯ ori restorative justice and Turning the Tide process’’ to help the teen straighten his life out.
The Turning of the Tide is a strategy developed by police and iwi that aims to reduce Ma¯ori over-representation in crime and road safety statistics.
In his evidence last week, the teen said he was locked in the cell for up to an hour-and-a-half, and he believed the arrest to be real.
Perry’s statement said the teen was locked in the cell for 10 to 15 minutes.
‘‘I was led to believe the role play and mock processing was at the express consent of [the teen’s] parents,’’ the statement said.
‘‘I understood from my discussion with Inspector Dennis that [the teen’s] visit was by consent, but I did not personally ask him that.
‘‘He didn’t appear frightened or scared, he appeared to be taking in what was going on around him, he was calm and fine.’’
However, Perry also said the teen was crying while locked in the cell.
The statement also said that based on the information given to Perry on the day, he believed the mock arrest was in line with the Turning of the Tide strategy.
It was the first time he had been involved with the Turning of the Tide, he said.
‘‘It’s not conventional, and we do what we can to help turn young lives around, to keep young Ma¯ ori people out of the criminal justice system.
‘‘Whilst out in the street, whenever I come up against our Ma¯ ori youth, I always discuss alternatives with them. I 100 per cent believe in it, it’s one of our core values.
‘‘It could be as simple as taking them home and speaking with their parents.’’
The statement added: ‘‘I truly believe in our kaupapa. I was only trying to do the right thing.’’
On Tuesday afternoon it was revealed that in an email to a colleague, Dennis had referred to a plan to send the teen to Australia as ‘‘my Australian scenario’’.
A police interview with Dennis in late 2015 was played in court.
During the interview, Detective Vanessa Pratt referred Dennis to the email dated May 1, 2015.
In it, Dennis wrote: ‘‘I’ve asked [the teen’s grandfather] to look at my Australian scenario and he is doing that now.’’
Dennis explained that in conversations with the teen’s family, he advised them he needed to get out of the environment he was in.
The teen’s grandfather raised the idea of sending his grandson to Australia to stay with an uncle, and Dennis said that sounded ‘‘perfect’’.
Dennis confirmed to Pratt that his colleague working on the matter, Detective Sergeant Neil Hilton, had told him he was limited in what he could achieve – given the teen’s adult status under the law, he could live where he wanted.
Pratt asked Dennis how he had responded to the limitations Hilton expressed.
‘‘I can’t recall what I would have said to him specifically, but I probably would have said to him, there is an alternative way to deal with this, this is what we’ve been set up to do inside the New Zealand Police,’’ said Dennis in the interview.
He said the teen’s family had a responsibility to look after their own.
‘‘The tikanga that we talk about, houhou te rongo specifically, relates to restoring the mana and tapu of an individual as part of a collective.
‘‘There was an ongoing risk of doing nothing, because [the teen] wasn’t going to stop doing what he was doing. We needed to do something and . . . The tikanga provided a safe passage that everybody understood and that I got behind to support.’’
The trial continues.