“Shocking treatment’ of prisoner

Newsroom: Prison transfer sparks human rights row

Video footage shows notorious prison ‘bush lawyer’ Arthur Taylor being forcibly taken while unconscious from Auckland to Waikeria Prison – but maltreatment is strongly denied by Corrections.

Arthur Taylor, his lawyer Sue Earl, Otago University former Dean of Law Mark Henaghan, and advocate Hazel Heal want Corrections to release the footage to the public.

Henaghan and Heal also plan to send information to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. They claim the long-time prisoner and public law litigant was subjected to torturous treatment during the transfer.

Having late last month seen the camera footage of an incident where Taylor was transferred from in December last year, Henaghan and Heal say Taylor’s fundamental human rights were breached.

Heal told Newsroom…

…the footage shows Taylor being approached by up to five Corrections security staff at Auckland Prison. He refused to cooperate, in a calm manner, but was forced to the floor and handcuffed. Taylor mumbled for a minute or so, before appearing to become unconscious.

Heal says staff “basically dragged him out of the office, face down, hands cuffed behind his back, with one person at his head, each arm and leg, and someone holding the seat of the remainder of his pants. He’s a big guy so his belly was arched toward the floor”.

“It was all really disturbing. His face was grey, his hands were flaccid in the double handcuffs. He had these twitching muscles and his tongue was darting in and out, twisting and curved. His hands were also grey and puffy.”

Up to 20 officers were seen moving Taylor in the footage, and more than one officer was heard asking whether Taylor was still breathing, Heal says.

Henaghan said he was horrified by the footage…

“It’s hard to believe that so many breaches occurred in such a short period of time…[It’s as if security staff] were going to go through with it no matter what”.

“He was clearly unconscious and you can see him twitching. At this point they should have gotten a doctor straight away. He was strapped into various things and he was carried around like he was some sort of animal on the tray. It was really concerning.

“I know it’s not always popular to stand up for prisoners’ rights but it’s a true test of our framework. If human rights don’t apply to all, especially the most vulnerable in society, then there’s no point in them altogether.”

Henaghan and Heal’s account of the footage contrasts with what was recorded in Corrections medical reports, obtained by Newsroom via Taylor’s right to private information under the Official Information Act.

A Corrections spokesperson told Newsroom:

“On the day of the transfer Mr Taylor was non-compliant with the instructions of staff, and actively resisted being moved. In line with section 83 of the Corrections Act 2004 staff were required to physically move him to the escort vehicle due to his resistance.”

He was transferred in a dedicated prisoner escort vehicle and accompanied by custodial staff and a nurse, the department said.

Corrections, referred Taylor’s complaint relating to the transfer to the police, but maintains the transfer was lawful.

“Police advised Corrections, and Mr Taylor, that the lawfulness of the transfer was a matter for the Judiciary, and that any allegation of assault could not be determined until the issue of lawfulness of the transfer had been resolved, and therefore no further action would be taken.”

Sounds like this needs a proper investigation.

Making Excuses for Inappropriate Behaviour?

An interesting article from Otago University’s Critic, about a widely liked and respected man who is also known to push and exceed personal boundaries as law professor.

Otago University was put in the #MeToo spotlight recently over inappropriate drunken sexualised behaviour at it’s summer law camps, with the head of their law faculty, Professor Mark Henaghan in attendance. This year’s camp was cancelled as a result of the publicity.

I have heard outside the University that Professor Henaghan is liked and respected. He is due to move away from Otago shortly (to Auckland University).

Crirtic – Opinion: Are We Making Excuses for Inappropriate Behaviour?

The first time I met Professor Mark Henaghan he put his arm around me and kissed me on the cheek. I was 17 years old in my first week of University and he was the Dean of the Law School. It was a University event so the official photographer probably has photos of me looking very uncomfortable.

That was not a good introduction to law school.

Recent media scrutiny has resulted in Law Camp being cancelled, and suggested that Professor Mark Henaghan was involved in skits that involved naked, drunk 20-year old females. It is right for questions to be asked. A Law Dean has standards to uphold.

Professor Henaghan attended the student-driven Law Camp because he’s a legend among students and they want to invite him.

I believe Professor Henaghan is a genuinely kind-hearted person. He’s a passionate lecturer, a leading voice on children’s rights in New Zealand and an important supporter to generations of students.

I’ve heard similar.

But, that’s no excuse for unprofessional behaviour.

I agree, but it seems that unprofessional behaviour has been excused for a long time.

I was in LAWS101 lectures where Professor Henaghan made leery jokes about the drinking, sex and general debauchery of students. He hugged female lecture theatre technicians coming to help him out and put his arm around female students asking questions after class. We were told by older students to use pink highlighters in our exams because “Mark likes girls”. It’s part of his humour and charm, but still leaves a slightly sleazy taste in the mouth.

Some students sat there asking, ‘was that appropriate?’ But we were told ‘that’s just Mark,’ so we just put up with it.

One person’s acceptance or enjoyment of personal attention from someone in a powerful position can be invasion of another person’s personal space. It can be a welcome squeeze, or unwelcome sleaze.

Obviously, there is a line between unprofessional behaviour and sexual harassment. The University is a place with solid processes for dealing with sexual harassment or assault. As far as I know, no formal complaints of sexual harassment have been made.

Creating an environment where we “just put up with it” at law school doesn’t help change the culture. In fact it makes it harder for people to identify what inappropriate behaviour really looks like.

It’s so easy to make excuses for people. “He could just have no boundaries.” “He’s just a super affectionate person.” “Maybe he doesn’t realise it makes people uncomfortable.”

But, how long do excuses hold up for? Didn’t #metoo start because people have been making excuses for too long? Isn’t it about being able to stop for a moment and ask, “is this normal?”

Fair questions. They can be difficult to have answered when the person making some people uncomfortable is generally liked and popular.

Despite how touchy he may be with people he knows in his personal life, the Dean of the Law School has responsibilities to uphold professional conduct with students.

One would expect and hope so. Apparently not in this case.

Professor Mark Henaghan is loved by generations of Otago students. But, nice people still do inappropriate stuff. It just feels hard to call them out when they’re right there. Maybe this dilemma is why people stay quiet for so long.

If people stay quiet for so long the inappropriate unprofessional behaviour of a university dean remains unaddressed, and year after year students are made to feel uncomfortable about what they feel as sleazy conduct.

It’s worse than one person in power abusing his position, whether knowingly or inadvertently.

It sounds like Professor Henaghan has effectively given University approval to an annual event, by his presence at the summer camp, to student that some are repelled and appalled by.

And his behaviour on campus has given an air of approval to men in power being able to be as physically personal as they please with students, including students he meets for the first time.

Two contrasting views:

Thomson Reuters (8 August 2017): Mark Henaghan – The Legal Luminaries Project

This is the third in a series of in-depth interviews with our esteemed legal leaders; our legal luminaries. Professor Mark Henaghan looks back over his life in the law, speaking candidly about his achievements, offering advice for younger lawyers and discusses what he thinks are the most important legal issues right now.

This is a free forum for Henaghan to talk about his own life and career. It includes:

When you look back what memories come to the fore?

It’s always my first year law classes. I love the openness and interest of the students. They have an endearing mix of naivety, hope, freshness, and exhilaration. It’s the next generation coming through and it’s a thrill and privilege to teach them. I relish the range in those classes. They are lovely young people.

What are your top 3 tips for young lawyers?

  1. Always be courteous to everyone, treat people with kindness. That has a great ongoing positive impact for everyone, including oneself.

What are your survival tips for dealing effectively with stress at varying stages throughout a career in law?

As a young person?

Have people around you. Put support teams in place to protect yourself and others. Be aware enough to know you need to have checks and balances in your life.

ODT (5 March 2018) – Mother ‘disgusted’ at dean’s presence at law camp

The mother of a former student who stripped and took part in jelly wrestling at one of the now notorious University of Otago law camps says she was disgusted the dean of the law faculty seemed to condone the event.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said she was disgusted when she found out her then 18-year-old daughter had been encouraged to jelly wrestle at the camp in 2012, but even more so when she learnt faculty dean Prof Mark Henaghan was present for part of the camp.

Her daughter had been chosen to take part after losing a game of paper, scissors, rock.

“She said everyone was peer pressured to do by other people in her group.”

While Prof Henaghan was not there for the jelly wrestling event, his attendance sent a message it was a sanctioned camp, she said.

“Students get up to a lot of stuff, but the fact that the dean of the school was there made it seem like it was sanctioned  by the school.”

At the time the woman said she thought about making an official complaint to the university, but decided against it.

The summer camp has been severely reprimanded, and Professor Henaghan will no longer be at Otago so won’t attend again

But the overstepping of professional lines by Professor Henaghan (and he wasn’t the only staff problem in the law faculty going by reports) is something that Otago University should address, publicly.

They shouldn’t make excuses for inappropriate behaviour of staff, nor ignore it.

But a liked person being to personal and in some senses sleazy (to some students) may continue to be swept under the campus rug.

Police accused of illegal moral crusade

RNZ have more on the using of an alcohol breath-testing check point to identify elderly people who had attended a euthanasia meeting.

Yesterday police admitted they used a breath-testing checkpoint to identify and trace people who had been at an Exit International meeting in Lower Hutt earlier this month.

Shortly afterwards they announced they had reported themselves to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

The acting Wellington District Commander, Paul Basham, said police carried out the operation “in good faith”, but were also aware of public concern about the legal basis for the checkpoint.

But Human rights lawyer Michael Bott said…

…officers misused used their power under the Land Transport Act, which allowed them to stop people, ask for licences and carry out breath tests for road safety.

“What you’ve got is New Zealand police undertaking what appears to be some kind of moral crusade on spurious grounds to such a degree that they’re prepared to use ‘stop and questioning’ powers under the Land Transport Act for ulterior motives, which seems completely improper,” he said.

In their defence, police said they had a responsibility to investigate any situation where they had reasonable grounds to “suspect that people are being assisted in the commission of suicide”.

So why didn’t the police go to the meeting to investigate?

But Mr Bott said police had no right to intervene in the way they did.

“The mere fact that you attend a meeting with a group who believe in the right to commit suicide in certain circumstances – if you’re unwell or terminally ill – doesn’t mean you actually endorse those aims, or that in fact you’re contemplating assisting someone with bringing about their own demise.

“So you really haven’t got good cause to do that.”

Otago University law professor Mark Henaghan…

…agreed the officers had acted unlawfully.

“Under the Bill of Rights Act, there is a provision that people should not be unlawfully detained. They [the elderly people] weren’t detained in the sense of being put in a cell but they were detained, and they were stopped and questioned, and were asked to hand over their licence,” he said.

“The police have no more power than I have to stop someone and say ‘I want to see your licence’, unless they’re using (their power) for the purpose it was designed for, which is the blood alcohol purpose.

“They’re really not using power that they have, so they’re effectively detaining people. If you haven’t got the power to do it then it’s illegal detention.”

Wilhelmina Irving missed the checkpoint but was visited from a plain clothes officer anyway.

She was one of a group of elderly women visited by the officers who questioned them about their connection to the pro-euthanasia activists.

She said the ordeal had made her lose faith in the police.

“You don’t think like that of the police, you think of them as trying to help people, not making things difficult for elderly people really.”

How was she identified?

I hope this is an ill-advised one-off and doesn’t set a precedent for how the police investigate groups of people.