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Police Persecution at Lake Horowhenua

Lake Horowhenua kaitiaki Phil Taueki is slamming the police for their campaign of persecution after ten charges he faced following his arrest last April have now been thrown out.

At the time, he had called these charges nothing but “a summary of fiction”.

Since 2011, thirty consecutive charges have been dismissed, withdrawn or quashed on appeal.

Mr Taueki is currently appearing on the Maori Television series, Kaitiaki Wars after first coming to the attention of producer Martin Cleave when footage of one of his arrests appeared on You Tube.

Four or five police officers had used a choke hold to drag him out of a truck parked on his own land to try and stop Horizons and NIWA launching unwashed boats onto the privately-owned Lake Horowhenua. Charges of obstruction and resistance were quietly dropped after the Police Area Commander Pat Handcock referred this incident to the IPCA.

After a six-day hearing in the Levin District Court last February, Judge Hastings finally released his reserved decision last Friday dismissing the charges of burglary and defacement.

Four charges relating to an incident at Hokio Beach on 23 March 2014 were dismissed earlier this year, and another four had already been withdrawn by the police.

However, Mr Taueki says it is absurd that he is still facing five years in jail after Judge Hastings found him guilty of escaping from custody, when every single charge for his arrest has been chucked out.

He says the police are blatantly abusing their power of arrest.

“They have no obligation to justify that arrest, nor repercussions if they cannot prove each charge.”

“Ten days before I was arrested on the Hokio charges, the police knew that the fingerprints on the scooter were not mine. All the eye witnesses had told the police that the complainant attacked me. My formal complaint was ignored and instead it was me who gets arrested.”

“The police wanted me put away and got what they wanted”, he says “by relying on allegations they knew to be false when they arrested me.”

Remanded in custody for two months, Mr Taueki was assaulted and lost ten teeth. He then spent another two months on strict 24/7 EM bail at an address away from the lake where he lives. The police had opposed bail on five separate occasions.

Mr Taueki says he had told Inspector Waata Shepherd that he was not going to stick around to be arrested on any more trumped-up charges. “So the police were well aware of my position on this.”

Nevertheless a few days later, two police officers turned up accusing him of being unlawfully in a building on the Domain at the lake. He tried to tell them the police had tried arresting him on this charge once before, but it had been thrown out. They claimed the rowers had a lease to be there.

Mr Taueki says that in court, Constable Daly Johns continued to insist that the rowing club leased this building, even though no witness could produce any evidence to substantiate this claim.

Mr Taueki was also charged with defacement after painting over graffiti on this building.

Mr Taueki says the police steadfastly refuse to accept the findings of the various courts, including the Supreme Court which has established that the club’s occupation of the building is unlawful.

Meanwhile Mr Taueki’s status as an owner has been recognised by the Supreme Court.

Lake Horowhenua is privately-owned and nobody can access the lake without crossing Maori Freehold Land. Title to the bed of the lake and surrounding land was issued in 1898.

In 1905, Parliament passed legislation allowing public access to the lake free of charge, and placing control of the Domain area into the hands of a Domain Board appointed by the Minister.

Parliament had not bothered to consult the owners before passing this legislation, and since then this once-pristine lake has deteriorated to the extent it is now rated one of the most polluted lakes in the country. Mr Taueki says that the rights of the owners are now virtually non-existent.

However he is relieved that rowing club member and Horowhenua District Councillor Jo Mason testified that rowers were crossing the Domain area to urinate in bushes on land that is waahi tapu.

He says he has found human faeces and toilet paper in this area.

“If anybody desecrated a public cemetery or Jewish site in this way, there would be an uproar but there doesn’t seem to be problem when it is Maori Freehold Land.

“Whenever I try to point out to anybody that they should treat our lake with respect, they know that they can summon the police. Within five minutes, I will be in handcuffs and on my way to the police station to be locked up so that the public can continue their culturally-offensive or environmentally-damaging activities on our lake uninterrupted.

“For some reason, senior police officers have got it into their head that the public have more rights than the actual owners”, he says. “Despite various court judgements, the police refuse to budge from this position. A letter from an acting area commander shows how arrogant the police can be.”

He says it is high time New Zealanders realised that Maori owners are entitled to the same rights to protect their property as any other property-owner in this country.

“It is up to the police”, Mr Taueki says. “If they are going to keep throwing me in jail whenever I stand up for the rights of my tribe to protect our lake, then it is only a matter of time before the owners decide they have had enough and take more assertive action.

“Unlike Bastion Point and Moutoa Gardens, there is no dispute about ownership”, Mr Taueki says. “We have the title and we also have a law that says this lake belongs to us and has always belonged to us. There is nothing that the police can do to clear our tribe off our own land.”

When Mr Taueki appears in court for sentencing on a date yet to be set in July, he will be seeking a discharge without conviction and he has not ruled out the prospect of an appeal.

He is also planning to take out a private prosecution against Constables Daly Johns and Nathan Daly who claim they had arrested him. “It is a serious criminal offence for a constable to allow somebody to escape while in custody”, he says. “If the police claim I was in custody at the time, then the court has already established that they allowed me to escape. Their testimony on oath is all the evidence I need. The penalty is seven years in jail so it is a serious offence. It is time these police officers had a taste of what it is like to live with the uncertainty of pending imprisonment.”

Phil Taueki

Since October 2011, a total of 30 consecutive charges have been withdrawn, dismissed or quashed on appeal, with one exception that is still going through an appeal process.

15 January 2014 – several police officers used a choke hold to remove Mr Taueki from his vehicle parked on his own land when Horizons and NIWA were launching unwashed boats on Lake Horowhenua. He was charged with obstruction and resistance. These charges were dropped after Area Commander Pat Handcock referred the incident to the IPCA.

11 February 2014 – Mr Taueki’s Mercedes car parked outside his bedroom window was trashed beyond repair after the police held him in custody overnight. Earlier in the evening, he had phoned the police to report rowers trespassing on privately-owned land, but the police waited until they had checked his bail conditions before responding. The police refused to make arrangements for his vehicle and his home to be locked before taking him into custody within minutes of their arrival.

28 March 2013- a police inspector watched as his home was vandalised while he was being held in custody after being arrested for assault when he tried to restrain a person disconnecting his power.

9 October 2011 – a District Court Judge claimed that he did not care if a police officer broke all the laws of the land, it was irrelevant to Mr Taueki’s charge of disorderly behaviour. In the High Court, Justice Kos disagreed. He established that a regatta held at the lake that day had not been organised lawfully. “To make matters worse, the organiser of the event was a constable. Mr Taueki was therefore entitled to express his opinion on that state of affairs and to express his objection vociferously.”

22 August 2012 – when asked whether he was appearing as the complainant or officer-in-charge of the case, the police witness replied: ‘Both’. Due to the risk of a serious miscarriage of justice, both convictions were quashed on appeal.

29 September 2012 – the District Court Judge preferred to rely on the evidence of two police officers rather than video footage recorded by a member of the public. CCTV footage that would have shown the overbearing tactics of the police during the protest at a civic function had malfunctioned, according to the arresting officer. Mr Taueki had been handcuffed and walked through a crowd of several thousand down to the police station. Once again this conviction was quashed on appeal.

29 September 2012 – As a result of this incident, Mr Taueki was bailed to the address of a councillor. During the early hours of the next morning, the councillor received two threatening phone calls; the first threatening to kill Mr Taueki and the second threatening to kill the councillor. Initially the police officer refused to trace the calls but a fortnight later, they were tracked to a Levin landline.

17 October 2012 – Due to safety concerns, Mr Taueki made arrangements to be bailed to the home of his sister. Two intruders arrived on the property and were ordered to leave. Mr Taueki and his sister were assaulted in the presence of her young children. His sister phoned the police at approximately 9am but the police did not respond until 4pm, and then only to investigate a complaint against Mr Taueki of wilful damage. This charge was not dismissed until June 2013, only a few days before trial. By then Mr Taueki had summoned the wife of one of the intruders as a witness in order to produce as evidence her taped emergency call to the police. Worried that her husband was capable of causing Mr Taueki serious harm, this senior Government employee joked that the police would think “yah” before laughing. She also made allegations later proved to be false.

27 October 2012 – Ten days later, Mr Taueki had already been charged with intentional damage but the intruder had not been charged with any offence. The judge had bailed him back to his home address, but as a standard bail condition, prohibited him from communicating with prosecution witnesses. This restriction included the intruder who drove his vehicle up Mr Taueki’s driveway and was taunting him that he had not been arrested. When the police arrived to arrest Mr Taueki for disorderly behaviour, he asked them to seize footage recorded by the Mayor and CEO that would confirm he had been assaulted by another member of the public. In his witness statement, this person admitted assaulting Mr Taueki. The footage disappeared. His assailant was never charged.
20 February 2013 – Mr Taueki was assaulted by a group of rowers once again trespassing on his land. When the police arrived, his hair, face and hands were bloodied after he had been hit from behind, thrown to the ground and his face ground into the rocks. In court, a police officer said he was lucky that he had not been arrested that day. In a letter to Mr Taueki, he said that charges would not be laid against the rowers because they could claim self-defence as he had remonstrated with them.

28 March 2014 – a charge of receiving a stolen trailer was withdrawn after Mr Taueki pointed out that he had purchased it off the registered owner. Asked if the person who had stolen the trailer had been charged, the police had no leads despite the vehicle being re-registered the day of the theft.

11 November 2011 – While attending an Armistice Day ceremony at the Foxton RSA where he is a member, Mr Taueki was arrested and led away in handcuffs for a breach of bail, despite protests that his bail conditions had been amended the day beforehand and a request to retrieve the bail document from his vehicle. The RSA was packed with official guests and members who were able to watch what was happening when four police cars turned up. A journalist was threatened with arrest if she tried to take photographs while the Vice-President of the Foxton RSA was also threatened with arrest, after a police officer told her that Mr Taueki was anxious because had lost his car keys and she approached the police car where Mr Taueki was struggling to search his pockets despite his hands being handcuffed behind him. He was placed in custody for the afternoon.

7 October 2013 – Attending a Lake Accord meeting in the Horowhenua District Council Chambers, several police officers arrived to arrest Mr Taueki for trespass. Mr Taueki had been advised by a police inspector that this charge would not proceed so he did not summons witnesses to attend a hearing over the summer holiday period. The Judge decided to proceed with the charge, but excused Mr Taueki if he wanted to leave. He did so. Despite his absence, this charge was dismissed.

18 June 2011 – at 1am, four police officers arrived to arrest Mr Taueki on a charge of trespass. Despite protesting that the trespass notice was invalid, Mr Taueki was given no chance to grab any belongings or arrange for the welfare of his elderly dogs before being taken down to the police station. His bail conditions prohibited from returning to his home or going anywhere within 200 metres of the lake. Eight weeks later, Mr Taueki was cross-examining the prosecution’s first witness when the Judge adjourned the hearing, and then dismissed the charge on the grounds that the trespass notice was invalid, as he had said it was.

16 February 2012 – Mr Taueki was arrested on a charge of common assault and held in custody for 24 hours. Taking a statement from a witness, the police officer in charge of the case told this witness that Mr Taueki had already admitted the assault, and then in court denied opposing bail until documents were produced in court, discounting both claims. This charge was dismissed.

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