The police powers
There was an article in today’s Press about the police search of a house in Christchurch. The police made a mistake. The house was the wrong one. They had entered by breaking down the door while the tenant was not home and trashed the house and then, when nothing was found they left, leaving the house wide open to anyone walking by. Did they apologize to the tenant? (It would cost nothing.) Did they clean up after themselves and repair the damage done? Not on your life. They quoted the law that allows them to do this and just walk away.
We are constantly bombarded with the refrain that the police need more "powers". These powers are said to be needed for the fight against organized crime and gangs and, of course will not be used against ordinary citizens.
The Watson case amply demonstrates that the police have more than enough power to bring to bear on the average person no matter who they might be.
On January 12th 1998 the police seized Scott Watson’s boat along with all of his possessions. This boat was his home and contained nearly everything he owned. The remainder of his possessions were taken on the same day, when search warrants were executed on the homes of his parents and sister. Two days later he was required to give a blood sample, again a warrant was issued for this. In that week his parents house was searched again, the police entering through a locked window while the house was empty and "yachting paraphernalia" was taken Including bedding from spare beds and sails from his fathers boat.
The next week Scott’s parent's house had another search warrant executed upon it. This time the police took all of Scott’s receipts and bank statements. Think about this. Within two weeks of the police having a suspicion, and that is all that there was, the police held all of Scott’s possessions and records (including a good many of his parents and sister), How does one prove one’s innocence, because no matter how many times we are told that one is innocent until proven guilty, that is what is required, without any resources to do so? Scott was told to leave and stay away from Picton (legal advice after he had been named by the media) and at least two further search warrants were executed on places that he was staying in the month that followed. Up to this time not one bit of evidence had been found, worthy of production in court.
When a search warrant is executed, one is entitled to a receipt for articles seized. Try to get one. When asked you will be told that "we’ll bring it round tomorrow". Be a bit more assertive and you will get a receipt for: One clean sack of items. One must become extremely obnoxious to get an itemized receipt for seized items.
Early in February 1998 a new "tough anti-gang law" came into effect. This allowed the police to get interception warrants for a single "suspect". Previously there had to be a conspiracy of a number of persons involved. The debut of this anti gang law was the Scott Watson case. Scott’s sister and parents houses had listening devices installed, as did Scott’s boat when it was allegedly "returned". (It was re-seized in June 1998). Phones were tapped including public telephones, for a period of at least four months once again to no effect other than the dramatic one of revealing this at the trial. Even this, if one looks at it closely, was probably only to justify the use of this law by using the resulting two telephone conversations (no incriminating content) so as the defense could not point out that for all of this listening no result was forthcoming. It would be very embarrassing for the police to have to admit that they had used their "tough new anti-gang law" to no effect.
A further search warrant was executed on the home of Scott’s parents in late February 1998, ostensibly to find a small piece of foam rubber cut out of a squab on Scott’s boat. That this search was performed less than thirty minutes after the private investigator hired by the defense lawyers had left Blenheim airport for Wellington and that the police performing it parked their car at least two houses down the road, walking up the middle of the road abreast, as one neighbour put it, "like the men in black". It seemed to be confirmed that this search was but an intimidatory tactic on the part of the police when the officer in charge of it said to Watson’s father that "you could see that I was not comfortable about it" The police do not like a smart ass.
All of the above were carried out without one shred of evidence of a crime having been committed. There were no bodies, there was no identification, there were no hairs, no secret witnesses, nothing but a suspicion in the mind of a policeman. Even this suspicion needed to be actively nurtured against a solid background of evidence that opposed it. The unshaven, long haired man, the ketch, etc. Police powers successfully turned all of this around and eighteen months later the mystery man was only slightly unshaven, the ketch a figment. Scott Watson identified.
Look closely at this case and you will see that it has been built backward. It was not until Scott Watson had been interviewed by the police on the 7th of January 1998 that the mystery man developed tattoos on his arms, he had previously been wearing a long sleeved shirt. It was not until he had been named in the media and photo’s published of his boat that people reported it acting in a suspicious manner, i.e.. (drift fishing and failing to wave to strangers) not until mid April that Wallace was said to have identified him from a distorted photo on a montage, (this was after being shown video footage of Scott and saying that this was not the man that he saw on the night) and of course there were no secret witnesses until after his arrest. There was in fact very little to the case until after Scott’s arrest as even the analysis of the mystery hair was not completed until after the depositions hearing. It makes one wonder just how hard the police worked at any other line of inquiry or if other lines had to be eliminated so that this one would fly.
The next time you hear that the police need more "POWERS", remember that these powers can and will be used on you too. They will not be used exclusively on the bad guys. You should be very afraid of the way that the police "investigate" and remember a very good piece of legal advice. "THE POLICEMAN IS NOT ALWAYS THE FRIEND HE APPEARS TO BE"