Campaign Against the Taser calls for Police to release
6 June 2008
Campaign Against the Taser spokesperson Marie Dyhrberg has called for Police to urgently make public large amounts of factual material that were excluded last year from Taser incident reports. The information has been requested by CATT to assess the trial, including the extent to which Police followed their own guidelines during the Taser trial last year.
CATT lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman when Police withheld the majority of information from Taser incident reports, claiming this was to protect the identity of officers and members of the public involved in the incidents. However, CATT had not sought personal identifying details of the officers or members of the public.
Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem has now upheld the complaint, saying that the deletion of information about the trial is unjustified in the light of the strong public interest in the Taser issue. The Ombudsman has recommended that that Police release the wrongly withheld information.
CATT spokesperson Marie Dyhrberg called on the Commissioner of Police to delay his decision on the Taser until the public has had the opportunity to view and comment on all relevant information about the trial, not just the summaries made available so far, which the Ombudsman has called "sanitised":
"I have read the summaries and compared them with the tactical options report accounts. In my view, many of the summaries are extremely brief, and have the effect of "sanitising" the original reports." Chief Ombudsman
The Chief Ombudsman has emphasised the need for greater accountability in the trial. She wrote:
"As the Police have recognised, the use of Tasers is an issue that is of major importance to all New Zealanders.
Marie Dyhrberg said today that the Ombudsman's decision highlights that the Taser trial has lacked transparency and openness. "Transparency is especially important in a trial, in order to provide an opportunity for reflection and considered debate. This cannot happen if factual material is kept secret and sanitised. The public needs to be given the opportunity to properly assess the trial." Dyhrberg pointed out that even with the minimal information the police released last year, the Campaign's report Stun guns in Aotearoa New Zealand? The shocking trial had highlighted serious breaches of the police guidelines for Taser use.
Furthermore, said Dyhrberg, the Ombudsman's decision indicates the need for the Minister of Police to be involved in decisions around the Taser. "If the Police cannot be relied upon to be open and transparent about the trial they undertook, the Minister must step in, in the public interest, and exercise responsibility to ensure that the Police are held accountable in relation to such an important public issue," she said.
Contact: Marie Dyhrberg, Barrister