‘It was a full interrogation’

A group of people were left upset after being questioned by police while drinking at a Howick bar. Times photo Wayne Martin

What began as an enjoyable gathering over a couple of quiet drinks for a group of locals ended with them being questioned by police officers in what felt like an over-the-top “interrogation”.

But police are defending their actions and say the officers involved acted within the law.

Howick man John* told the Times he and several friends from their sports team were having a quiet drink at The Corner Bar in Picton Street on the night of June 16.

They have a routine of playing a match and then stopping on their way home for a couple of beers.

John says the people in his group, all of whom are aged in their 40s, were sitting at an outdoor table.

They were not intoxicated, being loud, or causing a scene.

There were two other people outside and a handful of people sitting inside.

“It was dead quiet,” he says.

“We were on our second beer and a wall of police came up in front of the pub.

“There were at least eight police officers, maybe more.

“It was almost like riot formation coming at us.

“They stood spaced apart like they were forming a wall.”

John says the officers singled out his friend for questioning first.

“He was pretty upset about it. They said, ‘Come with me, sir’.

“I was like, ‘Oh s**t, has he done something? Is he in trouble? What has he done, is it fraud?’

“It looked like it was an operation to come and get one of us.”

John says the officers took his friend a short distance away and questioned him for about 15 minutes.

Two officers then approached John and asked him to go with them.

“They took me down the road out of sight of my friends.”

He says they asked him where he’d been previously, what he was doing there, had he driven, was he going to drive home, and how many beers he’d had.

They also asked him where he lived, what his name is and asked for his mobile phone number and driver’s licence number.

“It was a full interrogation,” John says.

“I gave them all the details and I noticed in the [officer’s] notebook I was one of 30 people they’d got details from.”

He says the officers told him they were just doing their job.

“My other friend said to them, ‘Why aren’t you chasing the ram-raiders?’

“They said they’re doing spot checks to check intoxicated people are not being served more alcohol.”

John says he and his friends returned to their seats and saw the officers a short distance away.

“They were waiting five metres down the road and just kind of watching us.

“We were like, ‘Let’s just go home, we’re done now’.”

He says they felt “bummed out” by what had happened and cut their night short, leaving at about 9.30pm.

“Normally we stay for a couple more drinks but it was a bit of a killjoy.

“I said, ‘See you later lads, I’m going’.

“My mate got really peed off. He was shouting at them, ‘What have I done wrong?’

“My other friend took a photo [of the officers] and they said, ‘Do you want to take it further?’

“They were being quite aggressive with my friends.”

John says he and his friends believe the officers’ actions were “pretty full on”.

“We were treated like we’re criminals.

“We’re just a couple of old boys having a beer. Is that against the law?

“It’s not something I’d like to have done again and it’s made me a bit wary.

“It was enough to make us say, ‘Let’s just go home’.”

John, who lives in Howick, normally walks home from the bar, while several of his friends drive to their homes in Pakuranga.

A police spokesperson says a small number of police staff were conducting routine checks at a handful of licensed premises in Howick at the time on June 16.

“This was part of police’s ongoing commitment to remaining highly visible in the community and to provide the public with reassurance.

“While this was not part of a wider operation, the checks were carried out in accordance with police powers under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.”

The spokesperson says the police work that night was conducted under sections 267 and 269 of the Act.

Section 267 relates to police powers to enter a licensed premises, while section 269 relates to their power to demand information.

Section 269 states a constable who has reasonable cause to suspect someone has committed, is committing, or is attempting to commit any offence against the act may require them to provide their name and address and date of birth.

*Name changed to protect his privacy.