12 Mar 2015

Police conduct authority funding tight

5:37 am on 12 March 2015

A cash shortage at the Independent Police Conduct Authority could hamper New Zealand's human rights, lawyers say.

Judge Sir David Carruthers.

Judge Sir David Carruthers. Photo: RNZ

Sir David Carruthers, the authority's chair, yesterday told a parliamentary committee that if it had to launch an investigation of the same size as the Urewera Raids it would struggle to cope.

The raids drained significant financial and human resources, resulting in the authority using some of its reserves and having to delay cases.

But Sir David said picking from its financial buffer again in future wasn't possible.

He said revenue has remained relatively static, and money is limited.

"At the moment, I'm satisfied that we're not ducking any work which we should be doing to fulfil our statutory mandate, but we don't have any room to move, frankly," he said.

"It's tight and we're watching every penny and I won't hesitate to speak up if I think it gets to a stage where we can't do the job properly."

Michael Bott, a lawyer and New Zealand Council of Civil Liberties member, said depriving the IPCA of funds risks hampering New Zealand's human rights.

"If it gets another big inquiry that would take up hundreds of hours and work," he said.

"And unfortunately if you don't have sufficient supply to do this, things don't get done, things get backlogged or outsourced."

Mr Bott said the Government was spending $26 million on a new flag, and needed to look at its priorities.

Jay Lovely, from Timaru, was the lawyer for freezing worker Troy Reuben who was tasered and pepper-sprayed in front of his partner and children by two police officers - a case that ended up with the IPCA.

The IPCA found two constables gave evidence they knew to be wrong, with the approval of at least two senior officers and the police prosecutor.

Mr Lovely said he was concerned about the authority's budgetary constraints, not only as a citizen, but also as a lawyer.

He said it was difficult enough that the IPCA did not have representation in the South Island, which he said led to the findings of his case taking more than two years.

"I know it took longer than it otherwise would have because an investigator had to come down from Wellington, arrange things like travel et cetera, and that took time."

The IPCA said it had taken steps to make sure cases in the South Island were finished in a timely manner.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said every department ws expected to work within financial constraints and the Independent Police Conduct Authority was no different.

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