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Photographs Taken At Police Checkpoint Unlawful

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that although the initial stop at a checkpoint was lawful, at the point Police required a woman to pull over to the side of the road for intelligence gathering purposes she was arbitrarily, and unlawfully detained.

On 16 November 2019 Police set up a checkpoint down the road from a ‘Fight Night’ event in Ruakākā, Whangārei. A number of the attendees were gang members, from a number of different of gangs.

A woman, who was not affiliated with any gang, was stopped at the checkpoint, breath tested, her warrant and registration checked, and asked to produce her licence. She was then asked to pull to the side of the road where more officers were waiting, which she did.

At the side of the road Police took photographs of her drivers’ licence and her partner, who was in the passenger seat, with her in the background. Her warrant and registration were checked again. She believed she had been unlawfully detained, and that Police did not have authority to photograph her, her partner, or her driver’s licence. She also alleged that the attendees of the event were racially targeted, as they are predominantly Māori.

The Authority found that although the initial checkpoint was lawful, at the point Police required the woman (and other attendees of the event) to pull over to the side of the road for intelligence gathering purposes she was arbitrarily, and unlawfully detained. By photographing her and her partner, Police were in breach of principles 1, and 3 of the Privacy Act 1993. The Authority also found that there was no evidence of overt racism in the planning or carrying out of the operation.

“Section 111 of the Land Transport Act 1998 was used as a pretext for intelligence gathering, which was a disingenuous and unlawful use of the section” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

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