IPCA releases reports on the unlawful detention of teenager
IPCA releases reports on the unlawful detention of a teenager and other misconduct by a senior Police officer
14 November 2019
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that former Inspector Hurimoana Dennis unlawfully detained an Auckland teenager in 2015, and improperly influenced the outcome of a criminal investigation into his own son in 2014. Inspector Dennis retired from Police in April 2018.
Unlawful detention of a teenager
In May 2015, Inspector Dennis detained a 17-year-old male in the Custody Unit at the Auckland Central Police Station without his consent or any legal justification. Together with members of the teenager's family, Inspector Dennis pressured the teenager to end his relationship with his 15-year-old girlfriend and travel to Australia.
In June 2015, the teenager returned by plane to Auckland. Inspector Dennis arranged for Police officers based at the Auckland International Airport to intercept the teenager at the door of the plane and, within hours, put him on another flight back to Australia. The teenager was later able to return to New Zealand and complained to the Authority in July 2015.
Police subsequently charged Inspector Dennis and a custody sergeant, Sergeant Vaughan Perry, with kidnapping the teenager. Inspector Dennis and Sergeant Perry were acquitted of the charges following a jury trial in November 2017.
The Authority determined that:
• Inspector Dennis, Sergeant Perry, and three airport-based officers unlawfully detained the teenager.
• A senior airport-based officer directed other officers to unlawfully detain the teenager.
• Inspector Dennis failed to recognise, report and address the conflict of interest arising out of his relationship with the teenager's family.
Inspector Dennis defended his actions (and continues to do so) by saying he was acting in accordance with Māori lore and the Police's Te Huringa o Te Tai (The Turning of the Tide) crime prevention strategy. However, these did not provide a lawful justification to detain the teenager against his will when there was no lawful power for him to do so.
"Inspector Dennis' actions in attempting to force the teenager to comply with his family's wishes were an abuse of his influence, power and authority as a Police inspector and were outside any Police policy applicable at the time. Neither Māori lore nor the Te Huringa o Te Tai strategy justifies the breach of Z's fundamental human rights to not be arbitrarily detained, to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure, and to freedom of movement", said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The Authority also found that Police failed to properly investigate the actions of all the officers involved in detaining the teenager. The employment investigation processes were flawed and lacked transparency, leadership and co-ordination.
Improper influence over the outcome of a criminal investigation involving his son
In February 2018, when reviewing the Police's criminal investigation into Inspector Dennis' detention of the Auckland teenager, the Authority found evidence that Inspector Dennis and another officer had influenced the outcome of a Police prosecution of Inspector Dennis' son. Apart from some preliminary enquiries, Police had not investigated this matter further or referred it to Police Professional Conduct or the Authority.
The Authority then identified further concerns about Inspector Dennis' behaviour, which indicated a disregard for the law and Police policy, process, and procedures, and a pattern of misusing his position within Police and intentionally involving himself in matters in which he had a clear conflict of interest.
The Authority found that:
• Inspector Dennis used his authority and position within Police to influence the outcome of a criminal prosecution of his son.
• By doing so, he improperly involved himself in an investigation and prosecution process when he had a clear conflict of interest.
• He breached Police policy by excessively and inappropriately using his Police email account for personal business.
• He breached Police policy by providing a character reference for a family member.
• He used his authority and position within Police in an attempt to influence the Court outcome for another family member.
• He attempted to use his authority and position within Police to influence an officer not to issue him an infringement notice for a speeding offence.
"It is evident that Inspector Dennis has repeatedly used his authority and position within Police to improperly pressure and influence Police staff and others, and has circumvented proper processes to obtain more favourable outcomes for family members in the criminal justice system. Inspector Dennis' actions, when considered together, amounted to serious misconduct", said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The Authority also determined that the Acting District Prosecutions Manager unnecessarily and repeatedly intervened in the prosecution process for Inspector Dennis' son, beyond the scope of his duties. He failed to act with the independence and transparency that would be reasonably expected and, by deliberately ignoring the conflict of interest, effectively increased the risk to Police's reputation. Consequently, Police did not treat Inspector Dennis' son as they would have treated any other member of the public under the same circumstances.
Police officers unlawfully detain Auckland teenager (PDF 603 KB)
Misconduct of a senior Police officer (PDF 625 KB)