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Police Taken to Court Over Protest Pepper Spraying

Pepper Spray to Stay in Public Eye

Mr Oosterman receives attention post pepper spraying

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Press Release: Global Peace and Justice Auckland
Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Police Taken to Court Over First Protest Pepper Spraying

A court proceeding will be filed against the Police today at 3pm at the Auckland District Court over another pepper spray incident in response to the lack of a general inquiry into its misuse.

Global Peace and Justice Auckland believes that this pepper spraying was the first time it has been used during a protest situation and that it set a dangerous precedent for future protests.

Simon Oosterman, union campaigner, represented by Graeme Minchin of the Auckland Council of Civil Liberties, is seeking costs of $50,000 for assault and breaches of his rights for being pepper sprayed during an unlawful arrest at a protest in Rotorua early last year.

In a court decision, Judge Weirs dismissed charges against Oosterman but said that he had “real concern” for the use of pepper spray and had forwarded a copy of his decision to the Police Commissioner. Oosterman says that he is yet to receive a response or an apology from the Police and that there has not been an investigation into the event.

Mr Oosterman said that he believed Police were investigating last weekend’s West Auckland pepper spray incident because the media had filmed it, which had put the issue of pepper spray into the public eye. “It’s not surprising that after a year of bad press for the police that their association president Greg O’Conners is trying to stall a wider investigation into the misuse of pepper spray by treating this particular breach of police procedure as an isolated incident,” he said.

In Oosterman’s court decision, Judge Weir said that “the exercise of tact, tolerance and restraint, and use of powers reasonably and properly, appear to have been more observed in their breach than their compliance. The use of OC [pepper] spray, in particular, raises more questions than it answers… on the face of it, the use of OC spray in this context causes real concern…” [1]

The judgement referred to a Court of Appeal case in 2003 that highlighted the need for a review of the circumstances and frequency of pepper spray use.

Mr Oosterman said that the public has a right to an independent investigation into the general use of pepper spray in New Zealand before trials of the Taser stun gun start later this year. “Police have proven themselves too irresponsible with their use of pepper spray and should not be given a more deadly weapon like the Taser. The 50,000 volt Taser stun gun has killed people overseas even when used following correct police procedures and should not be introduced into New Zealand.”

Mr Oosterman said that any awarded costs would be put towards a public campaign to stop the introduction of the Taser and to help those seeking court reparation for wrongful pepper spraying who can not afford legal costs.

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[1] Section 50, Oosterman vs Police.

ENDS

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