Judge slams police search

Last updated 07:34 11/02/2013

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Drugs and theft charges against a Canvastown man had to be dropped last week after a judge ruled police used excessive force, including killing the man's dog while searching his house for evidence.

In November, Judge Stephen Harrop ruled a search of Hemi Paki Pope's house on a search warrant on March 16, 2011 was unreasonable and evidence could not be used against him.

Three charges, one of theft and two of receiving stolen property, were withdrawn against the 30-year-old labourer in the Blenheim District Court last week after Police Prosecutor Sergeant Graham Single said police had no other evidence to offer. Judge Denys Barry said Mr Pope had been under strict bail conditions that had significantly hindered his movement since his arrest during the search.

In his ruling Judge Harrop said 10 officers and two dogs were used to search his house for evidence cannabis plants and a laptop shoplifted from Harvey Norman.

Two officers, one with a fire extinguisher, one with a gun, went to deal with the dog. The dog tried to attack them and the fire extinguisher did not work so the armed officer shot the dog twice. The dog backed on to the verandah, but continued growling so the officer shot at it three more times, he said. One shot missed and went into the house, he said.

The house was sometimes occupied by a solo mother and her child and police did not know who was home at the time, he said. The dog retreated inside and was shut in a bathroom, but was still being aggressive so the officer shot it two more times to kill it, he said.

The officer, who had been a dog handler for 10 years, described the shooting as one of the most upsetting things he had ever had to do in his job, Judge Harrop said.

However, he said police could probably have avoided shooting the dog had they followed standard procedure of knocking on the nearest door, in this case the front door, and announcing themselves. It was concerning the armed officer said he had orders to go straight to the back of the house, which suggested police had no intention of following procedure, he said. The dog was chained at the back of the house and could have been dealt with if it had come to the front, the judge said.

The use of dogs and 10 officers was unnecessary when looking for evidence in a case of shoplifting and minor drugs charges and the search was not urgent, he said. "This was a substantial forcible invasion both onto the property and into the home where Mr Pope was staying."

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- The Marlborough Express

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