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ACT Concerned About Police Attitudes to Truth

ACT Concerned About Police Attitudes to Truth

Tuesday 12th Dec 2000 Stephen Franks Media Release -- Justice

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks says the Minister of Police should inquire into the way police officers give evidence to court and official hearings. His comments follow the release of a select committee report into police handling of protests against the visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin in September last year.

“While I believe the police should not have helped the Chinese to block protesters from the Chinese Premier, I am more concerned now about their attitude in giving evidence to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee this year.

“Senior police were very casual about serious discrepancies in police evidence. I don’t think they set out to deceive the committee, but they seemed unembarrassed about wrong statements on oath. This leaves a fear that the culture may be infected from top to bottom with a cynical attitude to the truth. Recent media reports about judges doubting the evidence of police officers in court add to the concern.

“If Whakatane police have perjured themselves the punishment should be enough to send a no-toleration message throughout the police force. It is worrying that one of the Whakatane officers has reportedly been promoted since a judge commented unfavourably on his evidence.

“Official perjury is a tumour in the brain of justice. New Zealanders are demanding that we get tough on crime. But getting tough won’t work if we mistrust the police. We can’t properly support real deterrent sentences if we are seriously worried that the wrong people are being convicted. We need to know quickly whether the police culture is tolerating false evidence. Secret witnesses who retract their evidence are a worry.

“Peter Hartley approached me as a Parliamentarian on behalf of two men apparently wrongly convicted of rape with false evidence. The circumstances should have rung warning bells with senior police. Instead they opposed his petition. Only now with Mr Hartley’s private prosecutions does it look as if that injustice will be remedied.

“ACT can understand police frustration at law that coddles criminals and leaves victims trashed. But ACT believes that getting tough on crime requires clean hands from the police. If they lose moral authority, a get tough policy could just brutalise the law-abiding as well as the criminals. There must be no toleration of lying that destroys faith in the fairness of our trials.

“A true “tough on crime policy” must be toughest on genuine police abuses of power. These are not about infringements of the Privacy Act or misuse of cell phones. Lying under oath must be made unthinkable for all New Zealanders but especially the police,” Mr Franks said.

END

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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