The matter of Christchurch “looter” Arie Smith (Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp) has taken a worrying new turn.
The story so far. Smith was arrested for looting an Addington
home building after the February 22 earthquake. He became the publicised “face of looting” – a scapegoat for us all to hate, and a warning to other possible looters. But this narrative quickly unravelled, as it emerged that Smith suffers from Asperger’s syndrome (a type of autism), and it appeared from widely publicised photos that Smith had been badly beaten. (Russell Brown asks if the media were complicit in their silence on this.) A recent TVNZ piece sums up:
Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a type of autism, told TV ONE’s Sunday that he had never been in trouble with the police before his arrest and was “pretty gutted” about the charge.
The 25-year-old, who is fixated with electrical items, was caught allegedly taking two light bulbs from a property that now faces demolition.
He was arrested, denied bail and spent 11 days in jail, during which time he was allegedly assaulted. He was also kept on suicide watch. Police have refused diversion three times after the alleged burglary on February 25 and Smith-Voorkamp is now set to face trial. …
Police say allegations of assault are “completely incorrect”.
That’s all bad enough, but now it gets worse. TVNZ’s show Sunday last weekend reported the details of the Arie Smith case. Sunday interviewed Smith (who said that he was living in fear and “too scared to go out”) and the owners (who said that they were not “going to worry about light bulbs” and “we would not have pressed charges”). The police have responded by launching a criminal investigation into the Sunday show:
At the end of the Sunday segment, presenter Miriama Kamo said the programme received an email from Christchurch Central Police Area Commander Inspector Derek Erasmus advising they were “under criminal investigation” in relation to the story.
Inspector Erasmus watched the Sunday story last night and confirmed the programme was being investigated.
“Police confirm that they are investigating the actions of the Sunday programme in relation to their dealings with parties in the case.
“The matter remains before the court and we will not make any further comment at this stage.”
What was there in that segment that could possibly have warranted an immediate email launching a criminal investigation? Naturally TVNZ is standing by the validity of the piece and the professionalism of its staff.
I’m not sure what to make of this. I’m reluctant to leap to Idiot/Savant’s conclusion:
So its official: the NZ police’s response to allegations of serious misconduct is to threaten and investigate anyone reporting them. Our police force is out of control, and behaving like the security thugs of a third-world dictator.
The alternative is that the Police are privy to non-public information which really does put the Sunday piece in a criminal light. If that is true then they had better make their case quickly and win it convincingly. If they don’t, then we have turned a very dark corner indeed.