New Zealand Law Society - Review of policy after controversial interview room arrest

Review of policy after controversial interview room arrest

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The New Zealand Law Society Canterbury-Westland Branch President has welcomed a procedural review by the police after the arrest of a defendant prior to their court appearance in Christchurch in June.

It resulted in multi-party talks between the Law Society, the Police, the Ministry of Justice and Criminal Bar representatives.

The police say they have “agreed on a process” after the discussions.

Mr Tyrrell says he was told by a barrister that “they were giving legal advice to their client in a Courthouse interview room when a police officer and at least five of his colleagues swiped themselves into the interview room and locked him up over the numerous objections of counsel. They also advised, somewhat concerningly, that they had already told a registrar that the defendant would not be appearing at 11.45am which was a scheduled sentencing.”

“There is a real tension around how non-urgent in Courthouse arrests are unfolding as, of course, it’s a public space but on the other hand it is where people come to have their matters decided. Where police are effectively usurping the custody of the court we have a problem.  In fairness it happens at all courts – although usually outside of the Court building – but the perception (and possibly the reality) is that it is happening a great deal more in Christchurch,” says Mr Tyrrell.

“A protocol is, we are told, being developed to assist with a greater understanding of the appropriate roles. It would appear to be an area where ‘eternal vigilance’ is needed.”

Superintendent Lane Todd, Canterbury Metro Area Commander told the Law Society: “Police have recently met with members of the Law Society and Ministry of Justice Manager to discuss protocols in Te Omeka [The Justice Precinct]. This was as a result of concerns raised.

“Police are working with our partner agencies to ensure we operate in an environment that provides a high level of service to our clients and users of the precinct.

“While we will not comment on specific matters raised we have agreed on a process moving forward.”

The New Zealand Law Society’s courthouse committee and the criminal committee are looking into the matter.