It has been well over 3 years since Police raided my family home at dinner time on the hunt for illegal firearms. I had plenty of legal firearms in my arsenal to show them, but after turning my house upside down for over an hour, they left empty-handed. I was left wondering: why and how did this happen?
My initial requests for information were denied under the auspices of "active investigation" and so I began civil court proceedings on the advice of a lawyer. These were filed days before the COVID lockdown, at the time the courts had a backlog of up to a year. That backlog has now grown to 3 years before my case finally got in front of a judge. It took so long that the original judge assigned to the case has long retired.
Our pleadings were based on 3 clauses: trespass, breach of privacy, and breach of parliamentary privilege.
Two weeks ago, we had our day in court. While judgement has been reserved and could be a month or more off, I can write briefly about what I heard and experienced —a report from the courtroom on my own case. There are many documents and other transcripts of the case that will be worthy of revelation and detailed discussion once judgement has been passed, regardless of the outcome.
The following account is adapted from my notes taken in court.
Our expert witness was able to take the stand in the morning and explain that the firearm the police were looking for (a .22 calibre lever-action gun) was not required to be registered with the Police, both before and after the Arms Amendment of 2019. It was a firearm that was easy to modify, and he testified that Police actually asked people to simply keep and modify them so that they wouldn't have to pay out for these small rabbit hunting guns that were caught up in the sweeping legislation that targetted military-style firearms. The firearm itself was never banned and only the tube magazine had to have its capacity reduced through a simple modification, at which point it could have been retained or legally sold on without Police ever knowing about it.
Our lawyer laid out our case in his opening statements. The Police had acted on an "anonymous" request received 2 months prior and never demonstrated in both the warrant application and discovered documents that they tried to verify the information was true. The "informant" (who offered no actual knowledge or evidence that I had done anything wrong) demonstrated a hostile attitude towards me, called me a "hateful individual" and asked to be "anonymous" even though the Police knew who the person was. In the warrant application, Police did not disclose the political motivation or personal hostility of the person who they used as a trigger for the investigation and subsequent raid. The email itself was completely omitted so that the courts could not know the motivation behind the request they signed off on.
The email was sent off to Police National Headquarters (PNHQ) from which there was no further official response or discussion disclosed. There was no attempt made to make a phone call to me during the amnesty period. Then, over the Christmas and New Years holidays, the email chain suddenly resurfaces back in Manukau without explanation other than a note the tip-off was sent to PNHQ and that it needs to be looked into now that the amnesty is over. There is a back-and-forth with some info about what I am "all about" with screenshots of the Right Minds and The BFD websites, some from my Facebook group page, and my personal Facebook profile. There is no indication of why this information is relevant and these are then bundled into the warrant application and the screenshot of a Facebook post that the "informant" took 9 months earlier is attached, in which I complain about the firearms legislation that is about to be passed and how outrageous it is that there are only 3 days to give submissions on it. In emails not included in the warrant, Police also claimed that I did not notify them of a change of address several years prior, but I provided evidence that Police records were deficient and I did notify them as was required. This was accepted by Crown Law without argument.
Crown Law had withdrawn their request to cross-examine any of our witnesses, and only asked me a handful of simple yes/no questions to clarify what I had put in my written statement. Amie was able to give a short testimony on how the raid had affected her.
Our lawyer emphasised that there was no urgency for Police to seek a warrant, that no attempt was made to contact the plaintiff at any point during the amnesty which would have cleared up at the situation instantly, that the open hostility and political motivation of the informant were ignored and obscured, and that the .22 firearm was one the plaintiff was legally allowed to retain or sell if modified. It should be found that Police acted in bad faith resulting in trespass and a breach of privacy based on the evidence presented. He pointed out that I was providing reasonable feedback on the legislation, did not say I was going to break the law, and did not encourage anyone to break the law.
For the sake of space I'll leave out much of the arguments around the breach of parliamentary privilege which seemed like a highly technical one. The core issue is that the information in the Facebook post that Police used is replicated from my submission to the parliamentary select committee, which I was in the process of submitting and would not be available to reference until it was published a week later on parliament's website. I included a link to the submission form in the comments of the Facebook post (which were cropped off in the Police evidence) and Police claimed they never saw those comments or my submission. Crown Law argued they were not required to look for these. The judge had a number of questions on this point as it is a new area of law since parliament had recently extended absolute parliamentary privilege to all parliamentary dealings so that they cannot be used for civil or criminal liability in order to protect the democratic process. My lawyer argued that police using my Facebook post in this way has a chilling effect on the democratic process and that parliamentary privilege should apply to it.
Crown Law's defence was that this is a "simple" case as Police don't need evidence of a crime to get a warrant and that warrants can be used as a tool to gather evidence. Police followed procedure and had no obligation to do any extra research or to contact someone they suspected might be committing a crime. I am overly simplifying here, but the core of their argument is that Police can pretty much do whatever they want as long as they don't leave a dodgy paper trail. Crown Law argued that since we cannot prove that the Police intended to harm me that no law has been broken, and that the judge should not make the inferences that our lawyer put forward about bad faith.
Of course, it is entirely possible that the judge will rule this way, but I hope that such an outcome would be outrageous in-and-of itself.
The afternoon consisted of the cross-examination of two police witnesses who were the senior officers in charge of the raid on our home.
Both were asked about the statement from the informant that I was a "hateful individual", and if they considered these comments to be hostile. The first cop said "no" which resulted in a rather incredulous exclamation from the judge, who found it evident that there was no love lost for the plaintiff by their informant. The cop was asked the question again and still said "no". The second cop was a bit more forthcoming and answered with a "I can see how you might get that impression." A cop confirmed that the informant was not anonymous and that Police had been in contact with this individual. He did not consider those communications relevant to disclose. He considered it normal to hide an informant's personal political motivations and direct quotations from the courts to protect their informant networks and processes. He was aware that people might try to use the Police as a political tool, but was adamant that did not happen here as this is something they guard against. Both cops claimed they did look at the original Facebook post, but decided not to make their own copy with context to include in the warrant. Both claimed they did not see any comments about select committee submissions. Both said including comments about me being part of a right-wing group as being relevant information to the warrant, but that it was not politically motivated. They admitted to being aware I could have modified and retained the firearm legally.
In their closing remarks, Crown Law admitted that I have a good record as a responsible firearms owner and that this was included in the warrant to make it balanced. And with that statement the arguments ended and court was adjourned with judgement pending.
In summary, the reason I had a dozen armed police raid my home and terrorise my family is because someone found me hateful and police happily played their part in the hopes they'd get a good story out of the new firearms legislation they lobbied for.