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Police actions around Smith-Voorkamp case

Police actions around Smith-Voorkamp case

Following the withdrawal of charges against Arie Smith-Voorkamp and his associate Michael Davis, Acting Assistant Commissioner of Operations, Dave Cliff, has clarified Police's actions in this case.

"The defendant and co-defendant were, on the face of it, caught in the act of burglary and with instruments capable of being used for burglary in a badly damaged building in the red zone three days after the February earthquake.

"The decision to charge the defendants was made taking into account the clear evidence of burglary and public interest factors - such as the need to deter others from looting and the heightened public safety concerns during this time," said Mr Cliff

When the effect of Mr Smith-Voorkamp's Aspergers on his ability for form intent was raised, Police sought that this issue be investigated properly. There is a procedure provided by the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired) Persons Act 2003 designed for this purpose and Police sought that a report under this Act be ordered by the Court. Police considered that the appropriateness of the charges, and any possible outcome could not be determined until the appropriate mental health assessment reports had been obtained. The resolution of these charges has taken so long because of the delay in having the defendant medically assessed. It was important that due process was followed.

The reports were not ordered by the court and subsequently agreement was reached with counsel for Mr Smith-Voorkamp to commission an independent report to assess whether the defendant could have had intent to commit Burglary at the time he was caught.

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"Last Thursday, Police received from defence counsel a copy of the Forensic Psychiatric report which concluded that Mr Smith-Voorkamp has diminished responsibility in relation to the charges. Police consider that when taking this into account, the Crown Prosecution Guidelines "public interest test" is no longer met and therefore leave was sought to withdraw both charges.

"Police have considered the effect of this outcome and the charges faced by the co-defendant Mr Michael Davis. The diminished responsibility of Mr Smith-Voorkamp added credibility to the explanation of Mr Davis that he was there to look after his partner. The Police were, therefore, prepared to accept this explanation and give him the benefit of the doubt. Taking into account public interest factors, leave was sought to withdraw both charges laid against him also," said Mr Cliff.

Mr Smith-Voorkamp and Mr Davis were seen entering a badly damaged building which was surrounded by a six foot wire fence in the red zone on February 25th.

"There were significant continuing aftershocks and these men had no good reason to be the building. There was understandably huge anxiety at the time that with the central city empty and many properties unsecured.

"After initially running from police, the men were not compliant and were forced to the ground to be handcuffed. Mr Smith-Voorkamp had a bang to the side of his face. The pair were affected by alcohol and potentially drugs at the time of arrest."

There were only two New Zealand police officers involved in the arrests. There were no other police or defence staff present as later claimed.

"I fully back the actions of the officers involved. Their actions were entirely appropriate."

Mr Smith-Voorkamp initially pleaded guilty to the charges, but subsequently vacated his guilty plea without opposition by Police. He then applied to be dealt with by 'Diversion whilst denying responsibility for the offending.

"The Police Adult Diversion Scheme is a mechanism that allows for some offenders to be dealt with 'out of Court' and without receiving a conviction. There are criteria which need to be met before a charge can be dealt with by Diversion. This includes that there is sufficient evidence to prove the charges and it is in the public interest for the matter to be prosecuted and the offender accepts responsibility. Therefore, when there are issues of intellectual impairment which may offer a defence, the Diversion criteria are not met. It is inappropriate to use Diversion as a tool for dealing with people who may have a defence to the charge.


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