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Students Sue Police/Speaker Over Arrests

Students arrested at a protest in parliament grounds during 1997 will be filing papers in the High Court later this week claiming compensation for wrongful arrest, breach of human rights, denial of the right to bail and other injustices. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association President Chris Hipkins, one of those arrested, said the action had been a long time coming however the students were looking forward to seeing the matter settled.

A judgement by the High Court last year permanently stayed prosecutions against the protesters, stating that while the Speaker had a right to remove protesters from parliament in some circumstances, he must ensure that the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Bill of Rights Act were limited only to the extent that was reasonably necessary.

The students are suing the police through the attorney-general's office, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and an individual. The statement of claim lists five causes of action, including assault and battery and additional denials of a right to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person.

It claims an unnamed female police officer assaulted and battered two women and a man "by striking him forcefully on the head with his own shoe in his cell". Eight students were also strip-searched without reasonable justification.

"Many students were denied their rights to make a phone call, with many of their flatmates, parents or partners becoming worried when they had not heard from them by 7pm that night. Students also had to sit on cold concrete floors with no food until cold MacDonalds arrived at around 10.30pm," Mr. Hipkins said.

Hipkins said some of the individual complaints students had included being denied access to tampons, having a necklace removed with a large knife, having the cord removed from their trousers, and being denied access to a lawyer.

"But the main issue remains that students should never have been put in this position in the first place. It was a peaceful protest and the police got far too carried away, they were way out of line," Hipkins said.

--ENDS--

Chris Hipkins President Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (Inc.) Te Ropu Tauira o te Kura Wananga o te Upoko o te Ika a Maui

+64 (4) 473 8566 VUWSA Office +64 (4) 499 7100 facsimile +64 (4) 384 6389 after hours +64 (021) 707 927 cellular

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