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Private Witness Info Must Remain Private - Hawkins

by Selwyn Manning -

“It’s Outrageous!”

That’s the view of Manurewa MP and Labour police spokesperson George Hawkins who insists that alleged criminals should not be given personal details about witnesses testifying against them.

A Papakura woman who did her civic duty by reporting a theft, has been threatened by a gang of teenage thugs after her name, address and phone number were given to the offender, Mr Hawkins revealed today.

He says it is simply outrageous that this has happened. He has spoken to Police Minister Clem Simich about the matter in Parliament and “hopes” that something is done to prevent the handing over of witnesses personal details to alleged criminals in the future.

Counties Manukau Police’s Superintendent Ted Cox has appointed an officer to look into the case. The police, he says take witness intimidation very seriously.

But Mr Hawkins says this case shows how easy it is for criminals to scare witnesses out of testifying against them.

He says this Papakura woman witnessed a theft at a neighbours home. She called the police. Eventually a young offender appeared in the Papakura court, where he obtained a copy of the woman’s statement.

Now, she is being hounded by a group of young thugs. The threats are serious and very frightening.

“We must ensure that witnesses are protected adequately. This woman should be applauded for her willingness to protect her neighbour’s property. But if this type of intimidation is allowed, witnesses to crime won’t come forward for fear of retribution,” Mr Hawkins says.

A pattern of gang intimidation of witnesses is already established in New Zealand. Mr Hawkins points to the Mongrel Mob case, where members drove the Lawton family out of Invercargill, and also the New Plymouth man, Christopher Crean, who was murdered for giving evidence against gang members.

In this latest south Auckland case however, the gang involved is a teenage gang. And this, Mr Hawkins says warns us all that New Zealand’s exploding youth crime problem must be urgently addressed.

The warning is consistent with Counties Manukau officers claims that some of the most vicious crimes committed in the region are done at the hands of young criminals. In 1997, a 15 year old girl hammered a taxi driver unconscious in a terrifying attack which saw the driver hospitalised and fighting for his life.

The same offender had earlier stabbed a taxi driver in the neck after he was swooped on by a group of teenage girls aged from 12 to 15 years-of-age.

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