HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 577: 17 August 2011

Photos of offenders sent to Businesses/Hotels

The rising number of thefts especially those involving tourists may have prompted Police to be proactive and recently provide businesses and Hotels with photographs of young persons Police consider to be a high risk.
Pitt Media Group contacted Police Inspector Patia and put the following to him;
“Kia Orana Inspector – We are doing a story (on CITV) tonight about the circulation of Police mug shots of “High Risk Offenders”, by the Tourism sector.
I have a few questions about this tactic by the private sector. First of all, I need to know if these photos of the “offenders” were officially released. And if so, when. I have been told that the 16 mug shots that have been distributed yesterday (Monday) were not the first.
I am interested to know what the police strategy is in terms of allowing this distribution by businesses, since it would mean that the authorities lose control of HOW they get treated by certain individuals. Obviously, they will make its way into the hands of the media.
I understand there are restrictions on the public display of these images in terms of the media (but what about the shops/outlets/hotels?). These photos are not qualified by detailed information, including ages, history, etc – only by name and village, and therefore it appears to me that there may be human rights issues attached to this type of approach. “
Inspector Patia of the Police responded on Tuesday afternoon as follows; “What I can say is that Police do at times provide photos of high risk offenders only on special request by property owners who’s property been regularly targeted by offenders ( in terms of theft/burglary) to assist them in identifying suspects that prowl around their property and hopefully would assist Police in their investigation and apprehending the offender. The release of the photos is on the condition for their own (owners) information only and not for anybody else not even for public disclosure/display. Example of property owners would be like visitor accommodations for theft/burglary offences or store owners with regards to shoplifting offences.
I cannot be certain if the photos you’re referring to that’s been circulated was officially released by the Police as I haven’t seen them.”
The Herald is not able to show you the detailed photographs due to legal reasons surrounding the individuals, who may be minors – under the age of 17. What can be said is that the photos were distributed without any details other than name and village. Two of the “High Risk Offenders” were identified as being in prison and one is overseas in Australia. This new strategy is raising a number of questions.
Firstly, the tactic of exposing the individuals is one step away from hanging up wanted posters around town and a further step away from encouraging vigilantes. Secondly, there are additional issues to do with human rights and the course of justice, which are considerations not obvious in the way these photos have been distributed around the local businesses.
The Herald asked a local lawyer for comment especially on the matter of some of the offenders appearing to be quite young, possibly under 17 years of age. The lawyer responded advising that she was not aware of what pictures have been released to the community however, if the Police have indeed done that, it is in contempt of court if any of the pictured persons are 17 years and under and had proceedings against them in the children’s court. I will ensure that I raise this matter with the Children’s court and indeed ask for its referral to the Chief Justice if any of the persons identified in the pictures are under 17 years of age and dealt with by the Children’s Court (now or at the time of the alleged offending).
The lawyer added that even if the “minor” has been “punished” by the Children’s court the Prevention of Juveniles Act (the “Act”) prohibits any form of identification of minors who are appearing or have appeared in the children and who are still 17 years and under. Noting that these minors are “not convicted” but “punished” by the children’s court
Furthermore, s 24 (2) of the Act states, “(2) Save with the special consent of the presiding Judge or Justice, it shall not be lawful for any person to publish a report of any proceedings taken before a Children’s Court; and in no case shall it be lawful to publish the name of any child, or any other name or particulars likely to lead to the identification of the child.
When approached by Pitt Media Group for comment, Tourism CEO Carmel Beattie advised she understood the frustration and disgust of the general public and the tourism industry for the offending perpetrated on locals and visitors. She said she was uncomfortable about using vigilante style tactics and ‘outing’ names of alleged thieves as under our justice system, someone is deemed innocent until proven guilty. Beattie said she would hate for a case of mistaken identity to arise and cause suffering to a young person.
Her view was that the answer lay in youth programmes, mentoring, positive community involvement and stringent penalties for the guilty.
Wider issues for government to consider are in respect of employment opportunities, rehabilitation programmes, diversion for young offenders, availability of expert counselling especially in building self esteem and developing educational programmes designed to cater for those unable to cope with the mainstream programmes.
During the school holidays all government agencies should provide employment for senior students to instil in them a work ethic.
Village meeting houses should be opened up for youth activities under adult supervision.
While all thefts are unacceptable, Police statistics made public need to distinguish between the petty, opportunist thefts and the more serious premeditated forced break-ins.
The Police data should show how many cases involved tourists not taking responsibility and properly securing their valuables.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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