The death of Stephen McIntyre | The Jackal

11 Nov 2012

The death of Stephen McIntyre

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Father-of-two McIntyre, 47, was found dead at his home in Avondale, Auckland, on July 24. His death has been referred to the coroner.

Yanai said she planned to write to Police Commissioner Peter Marshall to complain about the force's actions.

Relieving Western Area Commander Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus said officers went to McIntyre's home to check he was living there, as his bail conditions stated.

Malthus said police could smell cannabis smoke within the address when the door was answered and chose to speak to him outside the address to "avoid causing him embarrassment".

Police chose not to pursue any charges over the cannabis smell, she said.

"Police inquired as to who Mr McIntyre's lawyer was so that any communication that might be required should go to the correct counsel. This is a normal police activity."

Blogger Martyn 'Bomber' Bradbury will today publish a letter on his Tumeke blog written by McIntyre immediately after the police visit on July 16.

"In retrospect, his friends now all see that the police turning up at his home at night and demanding to know what he was going to plead while threatening further charges had a terrible impact on Stephen," Bradbury said.

It's a very big call by Bomber Bradbury to say the Police officer's involved are responsible. Whether they were simply undertaking their duties or did in fact bully Stephen McIntyre to his untimely death is debatable, but what I think this case categorically shows is that even if the police were just undertaking their duties, this can have a detrimental impact on people, an impact that clearly goes entirely against the Police's guiding principles of ensuring public safety.

This is one of the main guiding principles within their code of conduct (PDF) that all police officers should adhere to at all times. In this case it appears that the police undertaking their duties as defined by the current law and perhaps even exceeding those duties has caused undue stress, which has resulted in the needless death of Stephen McIntyre.

It's not really about attributing blame, it's about understanding what has happened and looking for solutions so it doesn't occur again.

It should be said that the shock of possible charges and the mere presence of police can be detrimental to some people and that the police in general ignore the letter of the law and do not usually pursue misdemeanour marijuana charges. This appears to be a directive given by the Police themselves to their officers, not a directive of central government, who are ideologically blinded by their get tough on crime propaganda in order to gain votes.

Perhaps the Police's decision to not usually follow the letter of the law in terms of marijuana charges is based on the very sad situation that has once again arisen with Stephen McIntyre taking his own life. Perhaps if police had not vehemently pursued the well-liked marijuana advocate, he would still be alive today. What makes their charges against McIntyre different to the usual status quo is also debatable. Perhaps it's because he was an advocate for marijuana reform that he was targeted. If that were the case, it's an unfair use of police powers, and they should look at operational changes to better ensure public safety.

My point is that even if there was no police harassment, the law as it stands is somewhat responsible. Perhaps something good could come from this tragedy and there will be more public pressure for law reform that's based on reasoned arguments and what the evidence clearly shows.

In my opinion, decriminalizing marijuana is one of the main solutions to avert similar tragedies… A solution that is long overdue. Will New Zealand follow the various regions of the United States like Washington D.C. and Colorado's lead? With National in power, it's doubtful they will do the right thing anytime soon, and the unfair treatment of medical and recreational marijuana users will continue into the foreseeable future.
Stephen McIntyre with his wife Reiko Yanai.