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Request For The Prosecution Of Tame Iti

Letter to Police Commissioner requesting prosecution of Tame Iti

Thursday 3 Feb 2005

Stephen Franks - Press Releases - Crime & Justice

Commissioner of Police
Office of the Commissioner
PO Box 3017
Wellington

Dear Commissioner

As requested by the Minister of Police I formally request that Tame Iti be prosecuted for the following offences:

* Possession of an offensive weapon namely a shot gun, in a public place, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, for which the penalty under section 202A (4) (a) of the Crimes Act is imprisonment for up to two years

* Possession in a public place of that same offensive weapon in circumstances that prima facie show an intention to use it to commit an offence involving the threat or fear of violence, that is to damage the New Zealand flag with the intention of dishonouring it. The penalty under section 202A (4) (b) is imprisonment for up to two years.

* In or within view of a public place damaging the New Zealand flag with the intention of dishonouring it contrary to section 11 of the Flags, Emblems and Names Protection Act 1981. The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to $5,000.

I allege that Tame Iti committed those offences on the basis of television film screened by TV one news on 16 January 2005 and again yesterday evening, and on TV 3 news yesterday at around seven p.m. and again at around 11 p.m. He was plainly identifiable participating in a threatening gathering, he was interviewed on camera holding the weapon, and then filmed walking across to fire the shotgun into a New Zealand flag on the ground.

As further evidence of his threatening intentions and lack of lawful authority or reasonable excuse, on Tuesday 18 January he was broadcast in an interview with Mr Robinson of National Radio's morning report program making it plain that his intention was to inspire feelings of fear in the members of the Waitangi Tribunal present.

I have recordings of the television one broadcast, and of the morning report interview but I am sure that you will be able to obtain for Court purposes copies of the relevant recordings directly from the broadcasters.

I lay this complaint for the following reasons:

* It appears from comments in Parliament by the Minister of Police in response to a question from me yesterday that the police may not act without a formal complaint from some third-party and others may fear to do so I recall the police failure to pursue investigation into the Prime Minister's art forgery (and the subsequent destruction of evidence) on the grounds that no one had complained, until a public spirited Mr Graeme Sharpe, an anaesthetist, of Wellington, formally complained. That generated inquiries into his professional conduct, apparently instigated by persons from the Prime Minister's office with a view to blackening his reputation, so members of the public may now be reluctant to ask the police to enforce the law in politically sensitive matters for the Labour Party.

* The rule of law must be seen to be enforced without fear or favour. Police must retain a discretion not to prosecute, but not against prosecution where that appears to be political favour for an offender, or fear by the State of the offender, or a race privilege.

* I contrast the omission to arrest Mr Iti immediately with the immediate arrest and prosecution of the unpleasantly misguided but ineffectual and peaceful Wellington demonstrator who was convicted last October for possession of a tiny knife found in his car, after he had tried to defend himself (not using a knife) from a bottle throwing mob opposed to his views. Protesters must expect equal treatment before the law

* Automatic prosecutions of otherwise law-abiding self-defenders for Arms Act offences have contributed to fear and confusion with dramatic increases in rural crime and violence. These prosecutions have sent the message that only police can use firearms for self-defence, meaning that criminals know they can use them against law-abiding people without risk. If the police regard Tame Iti as immune I want a formal explanation, in the hope that the reasoning will reassure other New Zealanders that prosecution policy regarding firearms has changed.

* New Zealanders will be rightly outraged if firearms can be brandished to intimidate judicial officers without prosecution, while police legally harass those who have used them only in defending or deterring criminal attacks

I understand from newspaper reports that no police inquiry was communicated to Mr Iti until I raised this in Parliament. I also understand that the police have not bothered to obtain the required warrants to preserve and access pertinent film and other media records. I hope that is because police have more direct evidence from police personnel present at the time.

You will be well aware of the special powers of search and seizure without warrant under the Arms Act. Nevertheless if you think I can assist further in ensuring prosecution, or in developing a clear policy for changing prosecution practice, please let me know

I also record an Official Information Act request. From the accounts of MPs who witnessed the police failure to keep order at Auckland hearings of the select committee considering the Seabed and Foreshore Bill, and the unauthorised crossing of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, it appears that iwi liaison officers may be more part of a problem than any solution. I ask for all information relating to the role of any iwi liaison officer in the events surrounding Tuhoe's "welcome" to the Waitangi Tribunal.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Franks MP

ACT New Zealand

ENDS

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