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Young people don't know their rights - Harawira

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Hone Harawira
Hone Harawira

By Kate Chapman of NZPA

Wellington, June 22 NZPA - Young Maori who felt they were bullied into giving police DNA samples did not know their rights, Maori Party MP Hone Harawira says.

Police can collect voluntary DNA samples only from people over 14 under strict guidelines when investigating a crime scene, but those guidelines will be relaxed from next month, meaning people aged 14 to 17 can be required to give samples under certain conditions if they are likely to face charges.

Mr Harawira said several young Maori were "persuaded" to give voluntary blood samples.

Young people generally do not understand their rights and police should not be asking them, Maori or Pakeha, to give samples, he said.

"If a police officer comes up to you in the middle of the night and says 'you could've got killed in this accident, we better take your DNA in case you get really injured and can't speak to us so we can notify your parents', they're likely to give it, without knowing that that DNA then sits on police files until that kid's 100."

That was "improper", he said.

He has been advising young people to refuse to give DNA without a court order unless their parents or lawyer are present.

Questioned about his likening police to Nazis, Mr Harawira said he called police actions "Nazi-style".

The Nazi used cranial studies, bone structure and blood tests to support their "biological racism", he said.

"I think the police in this country, if they continue to do what they're doing in an illegal fashion, are pretty much following the same path."

In the 1970s police were finger printing young Maori without their permission and in the 1980s taking blood tests from young Maori, also without permission, Mr Harawira said.

"So, when I tell you today that the police are going after DNA without permission I am absolutely certain I'm right about it.

"What I do know is that it happened then and it was illegal -- it was illegal in the 70s, it was illegal in the 80s and it's illegal in 2010."

Mr Harawira said he had been contacted by six or seven people concerned about DNA testing, including from some Rangitane iwi and people in his own Te Tai Tokerau electorate.

He expected further claims to surface and said it did not seem to involve a single officer.

Police Minister Judith Collins said anyone who felt coerced into giving a DNA sample should complain to the Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCA).

Asked if young people may not feel empowered to make a complaint, Ms Collins said there were plenty of lawyers and MPs who would assist them.

She condemned Mr Harawira's use of the Nazi analogy and said it was offensive.

"I would also say look it's Hone we know he can sometimes make comments that are unfortunate and New Zealand police are very robust people. They deal with insults day in and day out, although they should never have to put up with that sort of thing."

Mr Harawira said a formal complaint may be made but that would be up to the families of those concerned and he would support them if they chose that option.

He was talking with the parents of the 16 and 17-year-olds, and one 15-year-old, who were involved.

"Their kids are already a bit scared anyway, the parents are a bit scared about what to do about it, aren't too sure, if they can get legal representation and chose to go down that route that will be their decision."

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