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Police admit euthanasia operation

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/10/2016 Karen Sweeney
Epsom electorate MP David Seymour © RNZ / Alexander Robertson Epsom electorate MP David Seymour

Police have admitted using a breath-testing checkpoint to identify people who attended an Exit International euthanasia meeting in Lower Hutt this month, in what ACT leader David Seymour has labelled un-Kiwi.

At best, it's a mis-prioritisation and a misuse of police resources, Mr Seymour, who currently has a bill before parliament seeking to legalise assisted dying, told NZ Newswire on Wednesday.

In a statement, Inspector Chris Bensemann says police have a duty of care and responsibility to investigate when they reasonably suspect people are being assisted to commit suicide.

He incorrectly stated suicide is illegal in New Zealand, though was correct in saying encouraging or helping someone to commit suicide is against the law.

"Information gathered through the checkpoint has enabled police to provide support an information to those people who we had reason to believe may be contemplating suicide," Inspt Bensemann said.

"The timeliness and appropriateness of this support and information was an important consideration undertaken by police in planning this operation. The actions of police were carried out in good faith."

But Mr Seymour said good faith was the easiest thing to claim, the hardest to prove and it would be the easiest for everyone involved if there were sensible laws on assisted dying.

Police were given breath-testing powers to protect the community from drink-drivers, not for a completely different "un-Kiwi" purpose, he said.

Mr Seymour wants to know who was accountable for the operation, which he suspects has taken place nationwide.

"If it had come from somebody in government they'd have to resign immediately. I don't personally believe in New Zealand in 2016 you've got the minister of police instructing the police force to go on a kind of search for people on what is a highly politically charged issue," he said.

"But you do have to wonder how the police came to get the idea that they should run an operation on this scale."

A spokeswoman for Police Minister Judith Collins said it was an operational matter for police.

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