From the “you have to be joking” file, the police set up a breath testing station outside a public meeting where assisted suicide was being discussed so it could collect personal details of people attending the meeting.
It is not the first time that possible supporters of assisted dying have been targeted by police. There was this earlier report of harassment including how one elderly woman was arrested and held overnight in custody for importing a class C drug. The background is described in Stuff:
Two elderly Wellington women with suicide drugs have been pounced on by police, who are conducting a national operation thought to be targeting a euthanasia group.
Police have confirmed a Lower Hutt woman was arrested and faces two charges of importing a class C drug as part of an “ongoing investigation”.
It is understood a second elderly woman was also involved in the October 7 raid, part of what police are calling Operation Painter, and that one of the women spent the night in a police cell.
Exit International director Philip Nitschke said police raided several elderly members of his group as part of a world-first clampdown on his organisation.
“It is ludicrous to try to argue that these raids are in the best interest of the Exit members raided,” he said.
“They are clearly designed to intimidate and frighten, and send a message that the elderly are not to have control over their own death.”
Police have repeatedly refused to say what the drug was, the age of the arrested woman, or when she would appear in court. They have also refused to comment on claims they had got hold of Exit’s membership list and were working their way through it.
The article infers that the drug was Pentobarbital which cannot be obtained in New Zealand but can be imported.
Then there was the report of the mass data collection via breath screening test. Again from Stuff:
Police have admitted they used a breath-testing checkpoint to target people who had attended an Exit International euthanasia meeting.
The move has been criticised as an “unlawful checkpoint to interrogate pensioners” by one lawyer, while another said it was probably a breach of police powers.
A complaint has already been laid with the Independent Police Conduct Authority about the officers’ actions in Lower Hutt earlier this month, and at least one other is likely to be laid in coming days.Police said on Wednesday evening that they had also notified the IPCA themselves.
The police targets, mostly elderly women, had been attending the meeting on a Sunday afternoon early this month in Maungaraki.As they left, about 4pm, all were pulled over at the checkpoint and – before being asked to blow into the machine – were made to give their names and addresses, and show their driver’s licences.
In the days that followed, at least 10 of them received visits from police officers, asking questions about their association with Exit, a pro-euthanasia group.
Questions put to police late last week and over Labour Weekend went unanswered. But on Wednesday, Inspector Chris Bensemann supplied a written statement confirming the checkpoint was to “identify people attending an Exit International meeting in Lower Hutt”, and was carried out “in good faith and for good reasons”.
Using transport law powers to stop people and hand over their details under the pretext of checking for drunk driving is as big an abuse of police power as you can imagine.
Barrister Michael Bott thinks the police have misused their powers. From Radio New Zealand:
Human rights lawyer Michael Bott said officers misused used their power under the Land Transport Act, which allowed them to stop people, ask for licences and carry out breath tests for road safety.
“What you’ve got is New Zealand police undertaking what appears to be some kind of moral crusade on spurious grounds to such a degree that they’re prepared to use ‘stop and questioning’ powers under the Land Transport Act for ulterior motives, which seems completely improper,” he said.
In their defence, police said they had a responsibility to investigate any situation where they had reasonable grounds to “suspect that people are being assisted in the commission of suicide”.
But Mr Bott said police had no right to intervene in the way they did.
“The mere fact that you attend a meeting with a group who believe in the right to commit suicide in certain circumstances – if you’re unwell or terminally ill – doesn’t mean you actually endorse those aims, or that in fact you’re contemplating assisting someone with bringing about their own demise.
“So you really haven’t got good cause to do that.”
And Law Professor Mark Henigan thinks the same. From the same article:
Otago University law professor Mark Henaghan agreed the officers had acted unlawfully.
“Under the Bill of Rights Act, there is a provision that people should not be unlawfully detained. They [the elderly people] weren’t detained in the sense of being put in a cell but they were detained, and they were stopped and questioned, and were asked to hand over their licence,” he said.
“The police have no more power than I have to stop someone and say ‘I want to see your licence’, unless they’re using (their power) for the purpose it was designed for, which is the blood alcohol purpose.