Police right to arrest ship captain

Last updated 18:04 07/03/2013

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A protest ship captain, who was let off charges relating to dangerous operation of a vessel, will find himself back in court after a High Court ruling found police had every right to arrest him outside New Zealand's territorial sea zone.

Elvis Teddy, skipper of the San Pietro, was dismissed of a charge of breaching safety regulations under the Maritime Safety Act in the Tauranga District Court, and also one of resisting arrest at a defended hearing in Tauranga District Court last year.

Teddy was protesting Brazilian company Petrobras' seismic survey of the Raukumara basin along with a flotilla of other protest boats, but he said he was simply fishing in his tribal waters.

It was alleged that in 2011, he steered the vessel within 20 metres of the Petrobras ship and refused to respond to police requests to back down.

Judge Patrick Treston threw the charges out after a three-day hearing in July, when he found in favour of the defence's argument that the courts had no jurisdiction outside New Zealand's 12 mile territorial zone.

Police appealed the decision and in a High Court ruling released today, Justice Mark Woolford quashed it, ordering the case back to the District Court for a further defended hearing.

In his ruling, he found although the Maritime Transport Act and the Crimes Act did not explicitly say New Zealand law applied to ships outside our territorial zone, international maritime law required it did.

"New Zealand would be in breach of its international obligations if the Maritime Transport Act did not confer jurisdiction to arrest seafarers who are breaching New Zealand's navigational laws."

Justice Woolford also found it "incongruous" for foreign officers to be able to take into custody New Zealand seafarers outside our territorial waters, but for New Zealand Police to be unable to do so.

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