Activist quizzes top police officer

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 07:44 09/07/2014
Phillip Taueki
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ
Phillip Taueki.

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One of Manawatu's top police officers has been forced to defend allegations police in Levin unfairly targeted a long-time advocate for the restoration of Lake Horowhenua.

Manawatu police area commander Inspector Pat Handcock was in the witness box yesterday in the Levin District Court, after being called to give evidence during the trial of Philip Taueki.

Taueki is charged with assaulting Horowhenua Rowing Club member James Watson during an altercation at Lake Horowhenua in February last year.

Watson alleges that Taueki hit him in the thigh with a rock, while Taueki maintains he was defending both himself and his land.

Handcock was quizzed by Taueki, who is representing himself, about multiple concerns about how police have treated him in other cases.

Prosecuting Sergeant Mike Toon interjected seven times during Taueki's questioning, as he constantly referred to alleged assaults which took place after the February matter.

Judge Bill Hastings agreed with Toon on all but one occasion, when he said it was important that Taueki had the opportunity to try to prove the police had a history of treating him unfairly.

Handcock said he had become area commander in July last year, and knew there had been problems between Taueki and groups involved with the lake.

He had a meeting with Taueki and tried to find some ways he could work with various groups.

Police had said they would, as they had previously, treat all matters fairly, he said.

Taukei said that had not happened, as an altercation between him and some rowers in December 2013 had ended with him being arrested, despite the fact he was bleeding from his head.

Handcock said there had been allegations from both sides about what happened, with both sides alleging assaults took place.

Both groups had been aggressive, antagonistic and abusive to each other, and all parties were warned, he said. The offer for Taueki and other groups to try to work together was always there.

"I have no issue with Taueki's cause," Handcock said. "But sometimes, the prize takes second place to pride."

Taueki also took the stand in his own defence, with amicus curiae Simon Hewson asking him questions on his behalf.

Taueki said he had seen the rowers Watson was with launching boats on the side of the lake opposite Maori tribal land - something which he said they had promised not to do.

He had gone down to the lake to make sure they exited the lake on to the domain. Some stones had been thrown into the water as "warning shots" to ensure Watson exited the lake on to public land. Taueki conceded a rock could have hit Watson.

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But he said it was not his intention to hit him.

"I knew if I hit him that I would be in jail for a long time.

"If I had been intentionally throwing at him, I wouldn't have missed and I could have broken his leg."

The trial continues.

- Manawatu Standard

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