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2 min read - November 01, 2022

Opinion: The risks of taking vigilante action

After news outlets recently covered the story of an Auckland pilot undertaking his own investigation into a burglary at his apartment, Harriet Krebs highlights some of the potential legal issues that arise from when members of the public take investigations into their own hands.

It would be particularly unnerving to find that someone had been in your house during the night and taken possessions, especially when they had great value – sentimental or financial. While we need more information to comment on that particular incident, we do have concerns around the general public undertaking their own investigations. Those concerns relate to:

1.     Safety: the safety of the complainant, or suspect, could be compromised should a meet up be suggested and proceed.

2.     Fair trial rights: the suspect’s right to a fair trial, should they be charged, could be compromised by the inappropriate gathering of evidence. The police have procedures in place that aim to protect this right. If evidence is improperly obtained (for example CCTV footage or a confession) and then relied on to obtain further evidence, that additional evidence may also be subject to judicial question. Ultimately, the police may wind up with no admissible, or allowable, evidence at trial.

3.     Privacy: there is a possible privacy concern here too. For example, the posters that were circulated on social media may result in a number of names being thrown into the suspect pool. What happens to the individuals who had nothing to do with it?

Vigilante behaviour should not be condoned. If one person can do it, then everyone can, and the above concerns start to snowball. New Zealand has a police force and a criminal justice system to protect the rights of all involved. The police are the best placed to conduct this work.

Don’t forget that you have insurance for a reason.

 https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/exclusive-how-an-auckland-pilot-tracked-down-a-bungling-burglar-and-got-a-confession/SBH32BIYHDPAVSZ63ZNCFA4ZOU/  Exclusive: How an Auckland pilot tracked down a bungling burglar - and got a confession.

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