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Medical Student seeks urgent claim against Police for bias

Timothy Morrison, a paramedic and medical student, has asked the Waitangi Tribunal to have an urgent hearing of his claim against NZ Police for bias in prosecutions of Māori.

As a teen from a troubled home, Timothy Morrison was targeted by NZ Police, starting as a 14 year old boy with his first conviction for burglary under $100. He went to prison for the first time on remand (pre-conviction) when he was 16, being immediately recruited into a gang. Over the next seven years he racked up 40 convictions including for littering, insulting language and being in a bar underage. Deciding to change his life, he spent nearly two decades in Australia with no convictions. After returning to New Zealand and while studying to become a paramedic, he defended himself in 2012 from an attack at work by an intoxicated man. The man fell and later died. NZ Police charged Timothy Morrison with manslaughter despite him not having a violent criminal record. NZ Police did not have good evidence to support the charge and in fact had video evidence of the man attacking an alcohol shop worker earlier the same day. Timothy Morrison was found not guilty but the negative effects of the manslaughter prosecution were devastating and are ongoing.

The ‘Police bias claim’ targets NZ Police for prosecuting Māori like Timothy Morrison in circumstances where non-Māori are not prosecuted. Police have a wide discretion about whether to prosecute and the claim alleges that this discretion is not used fairly for Māori.

An urgent hearing of the claim is sought as Māori who are receiving different treatment are suffering, as are their whānau. The effects of prosecution and imprisonment are extremely damaging.

The Police bias claim alleges that over-prosecution of Māori may be the biggest factor in the high numbers of Māori in prison, a social statistic that is widely known and damaging to all Māori as it creates a stereotype of Māori as criminals.

The Police bias claim is seeking recommendations from the Waitangi Tribunal that NZ Police must report publicly by ethnicity on how it is exercising the discretion to prosecute, and to establish a new body or bodies to look at prosecution decisions to determine whether bias against Māori might have had an influence.

Timothy Morrison is a paramedic and second year medical student. He is asking for his claim to be heard later this year.

“I am starting my second year of training to be a doctor. If the Police had taken a different approach when they came across me as a 14-year-old child playing up I believe that I would have been at this point 33 years ago. The manslaughter prosecution in 2012 was just one more roadblock.”

“I feel like my potential has been delayed but I am not the only one. I want this claim heard urgently because Aotearoa New Zealand is missing out on the potential of young Māori men and women.”

Timothy Morrison wants to be clear that his claim is not intended as an attack on police officers. He believes that most individual officers enter the Police force to serve their communities. But frontline officers are currently being set up to fail by NZ Police because it is not confronting bias in its organisation. This is why Timothy Morrison is asking NZ Police to support this claim being heard urgently. He wants to work with NZ Police to support Māori and to support police officers. The guidance of the Waitangi Tribunal is sorely needed and it is important that a public hearing happen as soon as possible to challenge negative stereotypes about Māori caused by a history of biased overprosecution.

The Waitangi Tribunal has given NZ Police have until Wednesday 6 March 2019 to respond to the application for an urgent hearing.

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