Auckland lawyer awarded $14,000 from police over false arrest, imprisonment

A lawyer has successfully sued the police for damages at the Auckland High Court.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

A lawyer has successfully sued the police for damages at the Auckland High Court.

An Auckland lawyer who had "fallen on hard times" has been awarded a $14,000 payout from police for wrongful arrest.

In a just-released decision from the High Court in Auckland, Nicholas David Wright has been awarded the damages following an incident in which he was arrested in 2013.

In the early hours of May 3, 2013, Wright was a rear-seat passenger in a car that was pulled over by police on Karangahape Rd in central Auckland for an illegal U-turn.

As the driver was being spoken to by one police officer, Wright and the three other passengers were asked for identification by a second officer, Constable Vijayraj Bhosale.

According to Justice Anne Hinton's decision, Wright - who she described as having been some years ago a partner in an Auckland law firm "but who has fallen on hard times" - refused the officer's request as "he did not consider he was legally required to provide identification".

Bhosale told Wright he was exercising his power under the Land Transport Act, at which point Wright "stepped out of the vehicle and told Constable Bhosale that since he was no longer in the vehicle the LTA did not apply to him".

"Mr Wright then announced that he was exercising his right to freedom of movement and turned to walk away.

"Mr Wright said something to the effect of 'I am a free man', which he was to repeat a number of times during the overall incident," the decision reads.

As he walked away from Bhosale, he pushed past the officer's outstretched arm and was then arrested for failing to provide his name.

He was handcuffed and patted down and taken to Auckland Central police station, where he was fingerprinted, processed and placed in a cell for two-and-a-half hours until he was bailed.

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Wright later challenged the validity of the arrest and, four months later, rather than go through court the police conceded there was no lawful basis for the charge and it was dismissed.

The lawyer, representing himself, took the police and Bhosale to the High Court for damages.

Justice Hinton found the handcuffing and pat search of Wright to constitute police battery.

Further, Bhosale "had no legal authority" in requesting identification from Wright and was "acting outside his statutory powers" when he made the arrest.

Finally, Justice Hinton found, Wright was falsely imprisoned at the police station.

Wright sought sought general damages of $141,000 while the police proposed a payment of $5000.

Justice Hinton ultimately awarded the lawyer $14,000 in "general damages".

The High Court decision makes reference to two other encounters Wright had had with police in the past.

In 2009, there was "an alleged incident ... when he was arrested at home". It was an incident that appeared to "have left him 'deeply disillusioned' and with a very poor opinion of police".

In 2012, a charge of trespass was laid by police against Wright and was later dismissed.

 - Stuff

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