Police raid irks legal high dealer

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 05:00 18/05/2014
Stephen Beere
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ

ANGERED: Stephen Beere, owner of VideoExpo and Orbital Imports, says he's prepared to take a private prosecution.

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A legals-high dealer whose shop was raided by police just 10 hours after synthetic cannabis was banned has accused police and the Ministry of Health of a "bungled" operation which broke several laws and left his staff traumatised.

Stephen Beere - who featured in last week's Sunday Star-Times burning $1m worth of his now-banned products - says he's prepared to take a private prosecution against the Ministry of Health and wants compensation.

Dermot Nottingham, acting as his advocate, says the claim could be for more than $400,000 because the raid broke a number of laws and there were good grounds for a private prosecution.

Nottingham has told the ministry Beere will refuse their request of a "full audit" next week of his operation unless they pay for an independent legal assessment of compensation and psychiatric examinations of staff.

Four police and two health officials raided Beere's VideoExpo sex shop in Henderson, west Auckland, on May 8, the first day of the ban, ostensibly to count how much product he had.

But while there, Beere says they caused unnecessary damage, illegally detained his staff and friends, cost him business, didn't follow procedure and illegally entered neighbouring properties.

Nottingham is prepared to engage a psychiatrist to test staff for post-traumatic stress and claim against the ministry for mental injuries.

Police arrived at 10.33am and didn't leave until 1.15pm, ordering the shop be shut during that time and refusing to let anyone enter or leave the premises. Staff said they were told they were being detained, but not read their rights.

Beere suspects police thought they had stumbled on an illegal P-lab after seeing barrels of alcohol - not realising he had held a Ministry of Health licence to legally manufacture synthetic cannabis.

"Nobody has done their homework and they've kicked doors and run riot,' said Beere, calling it a bungled operation. "I haven't heard from the police before, during or after the operation."

Police entered a neighbouring warehouse, owned by another of Beere's companies, including part leased by an entirely separate panelbeating company. Panelbeater Ken Sutherland, a friend of Beere's who sub-leases the garage, said he wasn't permitted to work, make a cup of tea or even go to the toilet.

"I was detained and not told my rights, and told I had to stay there. They didn't tell me what they were doing. They never told us were under arrest, they told us we were being detained."

A sex-shop staff member said he was "pretty worried" by police suggesting he was involved in illegal activity and it had been more stressful than when the shop had been robbed.

"They saw the equipment and one of the officers said ‘we will have to treat it as if it was some sort of P-lab'."

The Sunday Star-Times inspected the property at Cranwell St, Henderson, and saw six badly damaged internal doors, large holes in a plasterboard wall and a dent in a roller door, all caused by the police, staff said.

Nottingham claims police didn't have reasonable cause to extend their search under the terms of the Search and Surveillance Act, and breached the Bill of Rights by not reading the four detained people their rights, so the ministry, which directed the operation, was liable for compensation. "After Kim Dotcom, they should know that act should be very careful used," Nottingham said.

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He's claiming at least $20,000 for each of the four people detained on the premises, the same for illegal detention, plus money for wilful damage and loss of earnings.

Acting Waitemata area commander Inspector Rob Cochrane said police had identified a "suspected processing workshop with manufacturing equipment" [Beere's legal manufacturing plant], and said they forced one door because a woman refused to open it and the other five because there were no keys.

Cochrane said unsuccessful attempts had been made to contact Beere. He admitted the garage had been searched but said no-one had queried it.

The Ministry of Health refused to respond directly to Beere's complaints but said it had received a complaint from Nottingham and would be "responding in due course to that person".

- Sunday Star Times

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