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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tow-truck driver says detention unjustified

Tow-truck driver says detention unjustified

Last updated 08:25 30/03/2011
A tow-truck driver says he was wrongly arrested and detained for six hours for allegedly using false paperwork to break the central Christchurch cordon.

Emergency Breakdown Service (EBS) driver Tim Downs was arrested on March 11 while trying to recover cars within the cordon.

Police said Downs was detained for less than three hours and was arrested because his authorisation to be inside the cordon had lapsed.

Downs said he approached the cordon in St Asaph St, where he was granted entry by an army officer, who sent a soldier to accompany him to recover two cars from the Lichfield St parking building.

Before he could reach the building, Downs said, he was confronted by a policeman, who accused him of having a fabricated pass and ordered him to leave.

Outside the cordon, he was detained by another police officer, who arrested him on suspicion of using a false document and "sightseeing".

Downs said he spent six hours at the police station before he was released with a warning.

"I was traumatised by the whole thing," he said.

"They still tried to make out I had done something wrong.

"I didn't do anything."

EBS managing director Terry Orchard said that since Downs' arrest, the company's access inside the cordon had been revoked with no explanation, and he had missed out on thousands of dollars of work.

"The actions of police in excluding EBS are ridiculous and malicious and most definitely a restraint in trade," Orchard said.

EBS had made many trips into the cordon before being banned, recovering about 20 cars for owners without incident, he said.

Christchurch central area commander Inspector Derek Erasmus said Downs did not have authorisation to be in the central city on March 11 and he was satisfied police had acted correctly.

"The criteria for accessing the cordons are set by Civil Defence, and police are there to enforce those requirements," he said. "I'm satisfied that police are acting appropriately in managing the central-city cordons."

A police spokesman said EBS had previously had access but that had lapsed by March 11.

Civil Defence said EBS had access, which was revoked only after Downs was arrested.

Civil Defence cordon manager Gary Lennan said EBS was originally working with police to recover cars but there had been a shift to a "car-retrieval system working with the police recovery unit to make it fair for everyone".

Greg Atkinson, who owns Scotts Towing, said there was confusion over the process of recovering vehicles, with one towing company taking a lead role, leaving other companies in an uncertain position.

"The recovery of cars from the central city could have been done better," he said.

- The Press

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