Traffic charges against author Alan Duff were
dismissed today in Taupo District Court, with a judge also
criticising police for prosecuting him on other charges.
Duff, 57, had pleaded not guilty to failing to remain at a
scene after being stopped for speeding, failing to stop for
police and two counts of resisting police.
He was charged after an incident on Broadlands Rd, about 20km
north of Taupo, on September 13 last year when he was stopped
by a policewoman for speeding.
The resisting charges were withdrawn earlier this week and in
his written judgment today, Judge Chris McGuire said there
seemed no practical reason why those charges were laid on
January 4 instead of when the others were laid last September
He said police evidence in support of the resisting charges
was "unpersuasive and vague" and police were right to seek
leave to withdraw the charges.
"The result, however, is that I am left uneasy over whether
police prosecutorial power was used wisely and fairly in this
instance," Judge McGuire said.
The court had been told that Constable Patricia Foden had
pulled the Once Were Warriors author over for speeding
and he started "ranting". She later threatened to pepper
spray him when he tried to avoid having both arms handcuffed
Judge McGuire said Duff became "very fired up" after Ms Foden
told him he had been going 112kmh and he saw the locked
reading on the radar was 110kmh.
"I have considered the situation of a sole average sized,
slim female officer versus a taller and more powerfully built
male meeting in these circumstances in a rural district ...,"
Judge McGuire said.
Although she did not appear fazed by Duff, she would have
been startled by his "seizing the initiative" the way he did
and his sudden anger.
When she asked for his details, he said he had done nothing
wrong and initially refused.
When making a "query person" (QP) request to police
communications and writing down his details, he went back to
his car and drove off.
She gave pursuit and requested assistance. After 3.5km she
stopped him again and told him he was under arrest for
failing to remain and failing to stop.
But Duff's lawyer said he had been entitled to drive off when
he did because from the moment Ms Foden initiated the QP, she
was not exercising any power under the Land Transport Act.
Judge McGuire agreed and said police have no power to detain
a citizen except under express statutory power.
"It may well be that a public debate on this issue is
timely," he said.
"There may well be very sound practical and pragmatic reason
to give carte blanche to QPs in their present form in all
cases where drivers are stopped.
"But there are certainly arguments to the contrary that they
are an unwarranted and further erosion of human rights. Those
arguments are not for me to decide. Ultimately they are
matters for Parliament."
Duff had fulfilled his duties under section 114 of the Act to
remain stopped to provide personal details required of him.
Having given Ms Foden the opportunity to establish his
identity, he was entitled to leave when he did, the judge
With the charge of failing to remain dismissed, the other
charge of failing to stop must also be dismissed.