The Police Commissioner said he believed the police acted lawfully in enforcing level 4 lockdowns.
Email leaked to New Zealand Herald from Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement to other high-ranking officers shared the opinion of Crown Law which warned the police that they had little or no power to enforce locking during the first two weeks, and officers had to operate as if the country was level 1.
This was led by Director General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield to issue additional guidelines under the Health Notice, two weeks after the lockout has begun, to clarify the level 4 alert rules.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told me Morning Report The police are “conservative” in the way they apply locking from the start while they get clarity about their strength.
“At the beginning of any operation we will ensure what strength we have to uphold whatever we are trying to achieve,” he said.
“In this case we have power under the Civil Defense Emergency Management Act and under the Health Notice. At the beginning of the power we used most of the strength of the Civil Defense Emergency Management Law and which allowed us to provide direction to people where it appeared they don’t adhere to lock control.
“So that’s what we do routinely and it’s completely legal according to the law, where we take enforcement action early on because of repeated violations of the directions given by the police. So that is the strength that we have, that is the power we use and as I said I am sure that we are acting lawfully. “
Commissioner Coster said it had been “challenging” for the police from the start of the lockout, but was convinced none of his staff had overstepped his limits in enforcing it.
“The directive to our people is that law enforcement actions need to follow warnings or directives to comply with controls and failure to do so and that is in the initial stages before the second Health Notice is issued, that is the strength that we do, but we need to remember that most people doing the right thing, it is always our intention to educate and encourage before enforcement and that’s how we approach that period.
“It was appropriate for the purpose at the time, over time and there was little reason not to know and not comply when we took the steps we needed under the Health Notice for more proactive prosecution,” Coster said.
Commissioner Coster said there was no confusion on behalf of the police now because the Health Notice was clear.
ACT leader, David Seymour, has been campaigning for weeks for Attorney General David Parker to issue advice given by Crown Law to the police to enforce the lockdown.
Seymour said the leaked email reaffirmed his stance.
“Is it because the lockdown is based on the wrong laws or because the draft early notice section 70 is inadequate, incompetent, in the Beehive or in the Ministry of Health, has placed police frontline officers on shaky legal ground.
“Now there are serious questions about whether police officers exceed their legal authority in conducting checkpoints, arresting and shutting down businesses,” Seymour said.
Coster was unable to provide updates on the number of violations in level 3 locking, but said he would be able to do it later.
During the first weekend at level 3 there were 685 reports of violations within 24 hours from 6:00 pm on Friday. Enforcement actions were taken against 112 people.
- If you have the symptoms coronavirus, call NZ Covid-19 Healthline at 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for an international driver’s license) or call your doctor
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