Police watchdog to look into teens' ordeal

SHANE COWLISHAW
EMPLOYMENT AND JUSTICE REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 03/10/2012
The cousins, aged 14 and 16, who were arrested and strip-searched by Upper Hutt police
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
HUMILIATED AND DISORIENTED: The cousins, aged 14 and 16, who were arrested and strip-searched by Upper Hutt police. The older girl had her baby with her when police detained them.

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The Independent Police Conduct Authority has taken the rare step of launching its own investigation after The Dominion Post revealed the humiliating and traumatising ordeal of two Upper Hutt teenagers at the hands of police.

Last week the girls, aged 14 and 16, told The Dominion Post how they had been strip-searched and held in a cell for 36 hours.

They also claimed that they had been denied contact with their families or a lawyer and that the 16-year-old was forced to express breast milk into a cell sink after being separated from her baby.

The girls were arrested in January after police received a complaint about an attack on two other teenage girls.

During a Youth Court hearing in July, Judge Mary O'Dwyer condemned the arrest and police handling of the case, citing several breaches of protocol.

Police called the actions of some staff an aberration and said an investigation was under way.

Yesterday, IPCA spokeswoman Kathryn Street confirmed that it had decided to investigate the case independently of police.

If the investigation finds fault with how police handled the situation, the IPCA can make recommendations that may include disciplinary or criminal procedures.

John Gwilliam, a lawyer acting on behalf of the 14-year-old, said he would write to police next week to seek compensation.

Contact Shane Cowlishaw
Employment and justice reporter
Email: shane.cowlishaw@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @scowlishaw

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