Assaults and Detention at Wellington District Court
This is the first of two posts I am going to make here about my recent experiences. I would be interested in hearing from any others who have had any similar experiences with court staff.
Here is a letter that I have written to Amy Adams and Paula Bennett about how court staff treat people. I have included two incidents that occurred to me. I still have multiple bruises especially on my left arm from the assault last Friday. As yet although I have complained to police I have heard nothing back from them. In fact the way I was treated by police was in my view appalling. I went to Wellington Police Station to make a complaint. The woman at the desk was helpful but said they were very busy and there might be a wait before I could talk with an officer. I waited for two and a quarter hours before the officer in charge saw me. He said to me that they were not going to take a complaint from me on Friday night about security officers as they were too busy. I said that I would wait. He then told me to leave the police station and threatened to arrest me for trespass.
Tēnā kōrua Ministers Adams and Bennett,
I am writing concerning the operations of our courts in New Zealand. My particular experience has been with the Wellington District Court and I will describe two incidents of particular concern. However the purpose of this letter is not to get answers to those cases but to raise the awareness of a general problem that I perceive with the day to day operation of the courts and the disregard for the law and the human rights of people attending the courts. Obviously this matter concerns Minister Adams as the Minister for the Courts and the Minister of Justice but I believe it also is relevant to Minister Bennett as Minister of Police as it is the police who will respond to any complaints regarding law breaking.
Firstly by way of anecdote let me describe what happened to me on 16 May 2016 and 10 March 2017 where I believe Ministry of Justice and Court staff went well beyond the law in dealing with me.
On 16 May 2016 after a hearing, I was told to wait in the courtroom by the Court Security Officer. He would not let me leave when I asked despite telling me that I was not being detained. Essentially he held me by intimidation. He imposed his physical presence to prevent me accessing the door of the courtroom. After I left when I was asking him his name he struck me in the chest.
On 10 March 2017 towards the end of a hearing when I was talking to the judge with the judge’s permission a Court Security Officer came and started pushing me and telling me I had to leave. The judge refused to do anything about him interrupting me in this manner. Another Court Security Officer was summoned and they attempted to forcibly remove me from the courtroom. Even after I agreed to leave and went to pick up my bag one of the Court Security Officers walked toward me in a threatening manner denying me the right to pick up my bags.
Court Security Officers work under the Courts Security Act. That act gives them limited powers to detain people and to use reasonable force. Those powers are limited to when a CSO is asking for identification, searching, seizing a restricted item and believes certain specified offences have been committed etc. In particular they do not cover the movement of individuals in and out of courtrooms unless one of the provisions in the Courts Security Act have been met.
I submit that whenever the Court Security Officers force a person to move for reasons not explicitly covered in the Courts Security Act, to a certain place or from a certain place by either physical force or intimidation they are therefore not covered by the CSA and should be subject to the laws of the land.
In particular the Crimes Act defines assault as:
“assault means the act of intentionally applying or attempting to apply force to the person of another, directly or indirectly, or threatening by any act or gesture to apply such force to the person of another, if the person making the threat has, or causes the other to believe on reasonable grounds that he or she has, present ability to effect his or her purpose; and to assault has a corresponding meaning”
That is every time a CSO uses physical force for something other than a specific power in the CSA then that officer is committing an assault. Moreover even when a CSO acts or gestures to apply force as by deliberately walking into another person’s path then that CSO is committing an assault.
My experience is that CSOs are willing to break the law repeatedly in these manners and that the police are unwilling to do anything about the improper and unlawful use of force and intimidation by CSOs.
Perhaps more serious is the holding of persons in a courtroom. This is detaining a person. The Crimes Act defines it like this:
“Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years who unlawfully takes away or detains a person without his or her consent or with his or her consent obtained by fraud or duress,—
(b) with intent to cause him or her to be confined or imprisoned; or
My experience is that CSOs are willing to so detain a person in collusion with other court staff.
Not only is this a crime under the Crimes Act it is also an imposition on rights conferred by the New Zealand Bill of Rights, rights such as freedom of movement.
I submit that there should be an investigation of the practices of court staff and Ministry of Justice staff with regard to the extent of assaults not protected by the CSA and unlawful detentions. This investigation should be extended to police and how often they do not treat seriously assaults and detentions by court staff and Ministry of Justice Staff.
As a civilised society we should not be treating people in these demeaning ways.