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Sergeant's 'flagrant abuse of power': IPCA

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/09/2016

The police watchdog has come down hard on Greymouth police after a sergeant exercised a "flagrant abuse of his power" in detaining three people, one of who was kept in handcuffs for more than eight hours.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found police breached the rights of the three, two men and a woman, following their arrests in the West Coast town in May last year.

That included an unjustified arrest, unlawfully keeping two of them in a cell for up to 19 hours, keeping one of them in cuffs for 8.5 hours while in a cell and failing to allow them timely access to a lawyer (despite taking a call from a lawyer for one of the three).

IPCA chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers was scathing of the night sergeant involved.

It was "flagrant abuse of his power" to keep the woman in custody for 19 hours and the man for 15 hours after they had been unlawfully detained, he said.

The sergeant is now the subject of an employment investigation.

Police had been wary of the other man, who was arrested for allegedly assaulting his partner, and who was described as large, a cage fighter with gang connections and who might have been using methamphetamine.

He was kept in handcuffs for more than eight hours despite being in the cells. He was then denied access to a lawyer because the officer thought the duty lawyer at court would do, but a conflict of interest prevented that.

In response to the IPCA findings, Tasman district commander Superintendent Karyn Malthus said police regretted what had happened.

Police accepted the IPCA findings and steps had been taken to prevent a repeat.

"The actions of a number of staff during the day were not in line with police practice and process," Supt Malthus said.

She said they were trying to track down the three people to discuss the IPCA findings with them.

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