Assault victim calls for community network

A South Auckland resident, who was a victim of mindless attack on the road with no less than 15 persons witnessing the incident, agrees that there should be effective Neighbourhood Support Groups throughout the country.

“Members of the Indian community should also come to the rescue of anyone who is being physically harmed in public. I would not wish anyone to go through such a terrifying experience but at the same time I would wish people to help when someone is being attacked,” she said.

Police Advisers

Forty-year-old Praveet Singh was speaking to the members of the South Asian Advisory Board of Counties Manukau Police when they called on her at her home in Papatoetoe on Tuesday, January 21.

The purpose of the visit was not only to convey the sympathy and support on behalf of the Police but also assure her that they would recommend suitable measures to the Police and other groups working with law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and security of ordinary people.

Among the members of the Board who visited her were Ranjna Patel, Ibrar Sheikh, Moses Singh, Nimi Bedi, South Asian Liaison Officer Constable Gurpreet Arora and this reporter.

Terrible ordeal

Praveet said that she set for her evening walk on the fateful day (Thursday, January 17) from her home and that a couple of minutes thereafter sensed that a man was following her at a distance.

“He was muttering something in his language that I could not understand. I continued walking and suddenly noticed that he had caught up with me, and was yelling at me. He began attacking me with a bottle. I ran to a nearby house where I saw a man and cried for help. He chased me away. By this time a number of others in the neighbourhood had gathered but none would help. There were at least 15 of them and hence could have easily overpowered the attacker. I thought that I was going to die” she said.

Offender bailed

However, according to Praveet, the Police arrived at the scene in response to a phone call, and arrested the attacker, and took him into custody.

He appeared before the Manuaku District Court the next day, charged with assault and was released on bail, pending further hearing.

Praveet was taken in an ambulance to Middlemore Hospital, where she was treated for fractured eye sockets, broken nose and other injuries and discharged the next day.

A number of onlookers later told the New Zealand Herald that they were watching the woman being beaten up but decided not to intervene either because they thought it was a domestic dispute or because they were scared of intervening and ‘suffer the consequences with the Police and Court including intense questioning.’

Three years ago, Austin Hemmings, a North Shore resident, was stabbed to death as he intervened when a man was attacking a woman in Downtown Auckland alleyway. The woman escaped. The offender was reported to have killed a woman in Australia earlier.

Public anger

There have been calls, emails and responses to blogs on social websites from people across communities condemning the attack on Praveet. But more importantly, there was public outrage that none of the spectators of the attack offered to help the helpless victim.

Constable Arora said that people being attacked can use reasonable force in self-defence or in helping other victims.

But he agreed that there was a need for creating greater awareness among the people on a number of connected issues.

Members of the Advisory Board said that they would suggest to the Counties Manuaku Police to help residents in the area to form a Neighbourhood Support Group.

Vague definition

Section 48 of the New Zealand Crimes Act vaguely describes the right of defence and defence of another.

“Everyone is justified in using, the defence of himself or herself or another, such force as, in the circumstances as he or she believes them to be, it is reasonable to use.”

Neighbourhood Support

Neighbourhood Support New Zealand Inc was established in 1999 to promote and support development of Neighbourhood Support throughout the country. It works closely with the Police and several other organisations to reduce crime, improve safety and prepare to deal with emergencies and natural disasters occurring in specific areas.

Among its objectives are to encourage neighbours to talk to each other, share information, foster community spirit, minimise burglaries and car crime in their area and reduce graffiti, vandalism, violence and disorder.

Further details can be obtained from Secretary Dorothy Lomas on 0800-463444.

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