Arresting officer avoided 'breast area'

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 16:04 24/01/2013

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A police officer who arrested a half-naked woman amid flying missiles outside a Christchurch pub says he saw her only from behind.

An early-morning fracas outside the Woolston Tavern and its Club 604 nightclub has left two women facing charges of resisting the police and police officers accused of indecent assault.

The Christchurch District Court has been told the women's clothing became "displaced" during a struggle that followed the police ordering the premises be closed.

The arresting constable told the court he could not deal with the "clothing issue" at the time because of safety fears.

Pieces of concrete, stones and bottles were flying from the crowd confronting the police after the clearing of the tavern and its associated nightclub in Ferry Rd on July 8.

"I contemplated doing something about it," the constable told the second day of the trial today, "but my primary concern was my safety and hers.

"There was a real risk of one of us being hit by missiles. The safest thing to do was to get her into the police van."

The woman was handcuffed and placed in the van, and the constable told of seeing a second woman's clothing dislodged as she was on the ground trying to kick a constable who was attempting to arrest and handcuff her.

He radioed for a female police officer to deal with the women's clothing issues.

The constable said he had seen the first woman only from behind when her upper clothing came down.

She had been wearing a strapless dress, and he believed he saw a bra strap, although no bra was listed among her property at the time of her arrest.

The two women, whose names are suppressed, are on trial before Judge Robert Murfitt at a hearing expected to last several days while evidence is heard from a total of 21 witnesses.

One of the women, 21, is charged with assaulting, obstructing and resisting police.

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The other, 23, is charged with obstructing and resisting police.

They deny the charges.

The women have made complaints of being indecently assaulted by police, allegations which have led to the names of the two arresting officers being suppressed at the trial.

Their complaints may eventually be dealt with in court or by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

The constable said the woman he arrested was "grossly intoxicated" and was staggering or stumbling.

She had to be repeated told to "go away, go home" and pushed away when she kept approaching the police line that had been formed.

When she was not co-operative, he decided to arrest her.

Police prosecutor Glenn Henderson asked: "Why didn't you pull up her clothing?"

The officer replied that the police manual regarding searches indicated it would not be appropriate.

He would have had to place his hands around her breast area, which would have opened him up to misconduct allegations.

As she was being arrested she began flailing her arms, and at one point lifted her bare feet off the ground, which caused him and the woman to lose balance and fall. At that point, she became partly disrobed.

COURT SHOWN CCTV FOOTAGE OF INCIDENT

Persson played a security camera video of the incident recorded by the hotel during his cross-examination of the officer. The grainy video appeared to show the first woman being placed in the police van and then dragged out and put back in.

But the officer replied that it showed the officers trying to get her handcuffed and into the van while she was still fighting.

Persson asked why she had not been given her Bill of Rights caution immediately, and the officer said it was because of the danger from the continuing incident.

The officer acknowledged that because of the disorder, he had not called for assistance from a female officer until after the second women's arrest, when that woman's clothing also became dislodged.

Yesterday, the defence asked for a court order prohibiting "reproduction or publication" of any video of the July 8 incident that reportedly "went viral" on YouTube.

Fifteen police witnesses are expected to be called during the judge-alone trial.

- The Press

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