Photo NZ Herald/files
Police broke the law and breached the human rights of
hundreds of people when they blocked off a Christchurch street
for seven hours to check about 200 vehicles that had gathered
for a charity event, the police watchdog says.
Officers closed Maces Road in suburban Bromley on February
18, 2012 to check the vehicles that had congregated in the
area, a report released today by the Independent Police
Conduct Authority said.
Authority chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said while they
accepted police needed to act to control the situation given
their concern about the large number of people gathered and
possible disorder, their detention of people, in some cases
for more than six hours, and their treatment of them during
this time, was unlawful and a breach of human rights.
The vehicles had gathered about 7pm for an event described by
those attending as a charity 'cruise' to gain donations for
the Christchurch earthquake appeal, the IPCA report said.
Police became aware of the possibility of the event, and
arrived at the street to find a large number of vehicles
congregating with more than 200 people present.
They also saw some cars doing burn-outs and some disorder,
the report said.
"Concerned that there was public disorder as well as a danger
to members of the public, a decision was made to temporarily
close Maces Road to control the scene and check the
Drivers and passengers were instructed by loud hailer to get
into their car and stay inside otherwise they would be
After the vehicles were lined up, NZTA staff inspected the
vehicles while police checked driver details, the report
The process took about seven hours to complete, and the road
remained closed until about 2am.
The authority received 31 complaints from people who were at
the scene that evening.
Common issues from those complaints included being detained
and the length of time people were detained; the lack of
access to toilet facilities, food and water; police videoing
people without consent and police being dressed in riot gear
and their attitude during the operation.
"The authority has found that given the significant number of
vehicles and people present, observed burn-outs and risk of
injury to the public from vehicles being driven dangerously,
the initial decision by police to temporarily close Maces
Road was reasonable and logical," Sir David said.
"However, Police had no power to instruct drivers and
passengers to get into their cars and warn them they would be
arrested if they got out. This action was unlawful.
"The authority also found that the manner of treatment by
police to those unlawfully detained by depriving them access
to basic necessities was disrespectful and degrading. It did
not comply with police's obligation to treat people with
humanity and respect and accordingly breached their human
Police should also not have video recorded the drivers and
passengers, Sir David said.
The authority said police had already made some changes to
practice and policy following this incident.
However, policy in relation to photographing people is very
general in nature and restricted to road blocks.
"Accordingly, the authority recommends that police review
their policy in relation to photographing or recording people
and provide more detailed guidance to police staff on this
issue," Sir David said.
Acting District Commander, Superintendent Andy McGregor, said
the IPCA report made it clear that police had to balance
varying expectations from different sections of the community
when dealing with these types of incidents.
"On one hand the community expects police to uphold the law
and prevent public disorder, while on the other hand car
enthusiasts have the right to hold their events," he said.
"It is apparent that the number of cars encountered at the
location was much higher than anticipated, and despite the
best of intentions officers were unable to check the vehicles
and drivers for compliance within a reasonable time frame.
"As a result of this incident, a thorough review of policies
and procedures has occurred. I am confident that similar
issues would not arise in any such operation today."
Police accepted the findings of the report, Mr McGregor said.
He said several unsafe vehicles were written off the road,
one vehicle was impounded and one driver failed an evidential
breath test, due to the checks conducted during the
Since this incident, Canterbury police had run several
operations targeting anti-social road users under the new
procedures, without any repeat of the same concerns, he said.