Copycat fear in machete attack

ANTONIO BRADLEY
Last updated 05:00 28/12/2010
mellor
Constable Bruce Mellor

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Two 14-year-old boys have now been charged with attempting to murder policemen in the space of a fortnight after a second attack on an officer involving a machete and a knife.

Police Minister Judith Collins said Sunday's attack on a Hamilton constable may have been a "copycat" of the machete attack on Senior Constable Bruce Mellor of Waiouru.

The Hamilton officer deflected a machete blow using his baton but suffered a black eye before using pepper spray to disperse his attackers.

A third attack on a policeman was revealed yesterday.

A lone Northland officer was bashed by teenagers on Boxing Day as he tried to make an arrest during a fight at Matauri Bay.

The teens punched him and hit him in the head with his baton, causing a large head gash, before stealing a briefcase, police said.

Children's Commissioner John Angus said he was concerned by the extreme violence. "It's no surprise that some young people are reacting violently and using weapons, given that many young people are growing up in violent situations and learning to use violence when confronted."

But he said there was no evidence that the rate of violence among young people was increasing rapidly.

Hamilton city area commander Inspector Rob Lindsay said the Hamilton officer had been responding to reports that occupants at a Pukete house were fighting with weapons.

Mr Lindsay said the boys had been drinking and drugs may also have been a factor. "One has lunged at the officer with a knife. As he avoided that attack he has drawn his baton and it is that motion that has saved him from a machete swung by an offender who had come up from behind."

The constable called for backup and police used a Taser to subdue an occupant before the 14-year-old and a 16-year-old were arrested. Both were charged with attempted murder yesterday, police said.

It follows attempted-murder charges against a 14-year-old and a 18-year-old over the December 11 attack on Mr Mellor near Taihape.

Police Association vice-president Chris Cahill said it was a "real shame" that 14-year-olds were facing 14-year maximum jail terms for attempted murder, but a message needed to be sent.

"If it stops other people and other youths attacking these police officers, who are the ones that stand the risk of never going home to their family, then to me it's important ..."

Criminal lawyer Greg King said a person did not need to injure to be charged with attempted murder. Maturity was a significant factor in spontaneous crime.

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"Fourteen-year-olds probably do not think through their conduct to the same extent adults do, so there is the potential that things can get out of hand very quickly with a fight or flight reaction."

Speaking from Samoa, Ms Collins said she had spoken to the two attacked officers and neither had expressed concern.

"There is in the criminal element often that copycat element as well, but some young people are significantly more violent than older ones with very little understanding or even care [for] consequences, and that is worrying to everyone and it should be."

She had asked the Hamilton officer if a gun would have been helpful. "He pointed out he already had one in the car. It might have made the matter worse."

The Hamilton officer had gone back to work, and the Northland officer was recovering at home.

A youth, 17, has been charged with wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm and another youth, 19, with assault with intent to injure and aggravated assault.

- The Dominion Post

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