Euthanasia advocates could get damages over illegal police tactics - law professor

Morning Talk 16/03/2018
Photo: File.

Authorities have found that the police broke the law back in 2016 when they collected information to identify attendees of a euthanasia meeting.

After a pro-euthanasia group Exit International meeting in Lower Hutt in October 2016, police stopped vehicles at a nearby breath-testing checkpoint to collect the names and addresses of attendees.

A senior law professor says the attendees could file for damages because the police breached the Bill of Rights Act.

Andrew Geddes of Otago University told Mark Sainsbury that while the police are allowed to stop and question members of the public, they acted illegally in this case.

“The police can’t just wave you down because they feel like it,” he said.

One of the attendees, Linda Young, said that “several people had their computers confiscated, and I was very concerned about any emails that I might have sent mentioning names of other people. I felt sick”.

Police had been monitoring the Exit International meeting as part of an investigation into the death of an elderly woman who'd ingested pentobarbitone - a drug used to euthanise animals.

Ms Young made a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner immediately after the event and is concerned about where the instruction came from within the police hierarchy and what the motivation may have been.

An investigation from the Office of Privacy Commissioner (OPC) found the collection of information at the checkpoint breached the privacy act, and an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report found the checkpoint was unlawful.

Mr Geddes said a monetary pay-out could well be on the cards if the euthanasia advocates are willing to take the time and effort to press charges.

“Because [the police] used their power for an improper purpose, it’s an unlawful action.”

Listen to the full interview with Andrew Geddes above.

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