Monday, 4 May 2020

Police leaks reaffirm need to release lockdown legal advice

Leaked emails from Police National Headquarters reaffirm the need for the Government to release the Crown Law advice to Police on enforcing the lockdown”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“An email sent by Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement in the early days of Alert Level 4 suggests Police did not have sufficient powers to enforce the lockdown.

“Whether that was because the lockdown was based on the wrong legislation or because the drafting of the initial section 70 notice was inadequate, incompetence, in the Beehive or at the Ministry of Health, has put frontline Police officers on shaky legal ground.

“There are now serious questions about whether Police officers exceeded their legal authority in carrying out checkpoints, arrests and shutting down businesses.

“When the country went into lockdown on 25 March, there was serious confusion about what people were allowed to do and what powers the Police had. It was only several days later that the Director-General of Health and the Police Commissioner issued clear guidance about the rules that the public and Police officers were operating under.

“In the intervening period, Police were operating checkpoints, making arrests and shutting down businesses.

“The public needs to be assured that, during the early days of the Alert Level 4 lockdown, Police were acting within the law and not simply operating on the basis of the Government’s public statements.

“For more than a month now, ACT has called for the Government to release the Crown Law advice. People deserve to see this information. But the Attorney-General, and both the former and the current Police Commissioner, have refused to allow the public to see it.

“The rule of law requires that this kind of information is accessible to the public. The Government has an opportunity to encourage respect for the law, and confidence in Police, by being open and transparent.”