Charges against civil liberties lawyer dismissed after judge was unable to decide which case was stronger


Michael Bott found himself facing the police over an issue he had commented on publicly.


Michael Bott found himself facing the police over an issue he had commented on publicly.

Civil liberties attorney Michael Bott had not been home for a long time, relaxing on his couch with a glass of wine when he realized there were police officers in his driveway.

They were looking at his car.

As a lawyer, Bott is very aware of the rights at stake when the police unexpectedly show up at your home. In fact, about three weeks before, he had given an interview to the media on this subject.

So he opened the door and was told that they had filed a complaint about his driving and that he had hit a middle barrier on State Highway 2 shortly before.

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Bott knew not. And let them see the car and that it wasn’t damaged.

An officer wanted to call his informant to clarify matters, but Bott says he then asked them to leave.

All police officers have an implied license to investigate and enter property if they are in pursuit of a possible criminal. But unless they’re chasing someone, they have to leave if asked.

Bott then went back inside.

Which would have been the end if the police hadn’t left.

Bott was eventually arrested after the police asked him to take a breathalyzer test, which he refused, so they took him to a police station. He was then charged with refusing to accompany the police on August 2, 2019 and refusing to give a blood sample. He pleaded not guilty to both.

Michael Bott was acquitted by a judge who could not decide between the two parties.

Martin de Ruyter / Tips

Michael Bott was acquitted by a judge who could not decide between the two parties.

More than two years later, he finally arrived at a court hearing into what happened on his property that night.

The police informant said she saw Bott’s car change lanes for no reason, drove over the white lane lines, accelerated and then slowed down. At one point, she believed he had reached the middle barrier before walking away.

Bott himself is clear. He admitted that he is not the best driver and that he was distracted that night when he realized he had not turned on his phone’s Bluetooth. He had overcorrected at one point after realizing how close he was to hitting something.

However, he denied that he was drinking.

And the police deny being asked to leave.

Sergeant Laurence Vautier told Wellington District Court Judge Peter Rollo that he actually told the other two officers with him that if they were asked to leave, they should.

Vautier then said he went to Bott’s door and, when he opened it, began arrest proceedings, which once started mean police cannot be asked to leave .

Bott at the time was on the phone with another senior lawyer, Geoff Fulton, who told the court it was perfectly clear Bott didn’t want the police there.

In the end, this was not something Judge Rollo was able to draw conclusions on.

At the end of the hearing last week, he said he was left with two opposing versions without strong evidence to support one way or the other.

“I also cannot say that what is given to me is wrong or unreliable. I am left between the accounts.

He said that as a result the prosecution failed to satisfy him and the charges should be dismissed.

After the hearing, Bott said: “It was very ironic that having spoken publicly about the dangers of the police abusing their powers to enter private property under an implied license only a few weeks before I was then a victim. of this exact… police practice. It was almost a case of life imitating art.

He is now considering legal action against the police.


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