30 May 2024

Far-right media host's court case against police dismissed

6:59 am on 30 May 2024
Kelvyn Alp

Kelvyn Alp in 2022. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The man behind a far-right media platform who claimed he was wrongfully arrested outside court during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a court case against the police dismissed.

Kelvyn Alp and his partner Hannah Spierer, both founders of Counterspin Media, were approached by police outside the High Court in Wellington on October 22, 2021, during Covid alert level 3.

A handful of protesters were also there to support Sue Gray, who was inside in court.

Police suspected Alp and Spierer had travelled from Auckland, which was under alert level 3 at the time, and therefore were not permitted to travel outside the city unless they had an exemption.

When Alp was questioned, he failed to convince police his travel was allowed, and was arrested.

In May this year, he took his case to the Wellington District Court, arguing the arrest was unlawful, in breach of his civil and political rights, and that being handcuffed amounted to battery, and sought compensation.

But on Wednesday Judge Kevin Kelly dismissed the case, ruling police did have a probable cause to suspect Alp and Spierer were flouting the alert level rules.

He reasoned that at the time of Alp's arrest a breach of a Covid-19 order was an imprisonable offence.

The order stated that a person in one alert level could go into, out of, or through another for a "permitted purpose", and if they travelled without stopping.

A permitted purpose could include "key communications", including news production and broadcast media.

Alp argued that he had in fact travelled from Whangārei, so had only gone through Auckland, and that he was in Wellington to cover the court case as a journalist.

However, the police officers said Alp did not produce evidence to support either of these claims before his arrest.

Police also knew Alp had an address in Auckland, and that he had been there recently, as he had been stopped or spoken to by officers for other reasons in recent weeks, so it was not unreasonable to suspect he had started his journey there.

The court was shown no evidence that a media application for Counterspin to cover the case had ever been submitted, and police said they were aware at the time that Counterspin did not have official media accreditation.

In evidence, arresting officer Constable Tyler Wickham said he suspected Alp did not have good cause to be there, in part because of a lack of filming or recording equipment, and because of the way he and Spierer interacted with the protesters.

In his judgment, Kelly said: "I am satisfied that their appearance would not be distinguishable from protesters who also commonly photographed or film protests."

"In any event, again, the police internal advice was that Counterspin was not a legitimate media organisation."

Kelly's final ruling was that the police were suspicious of whether Alp had breached the Covid order, and were therefore justified in arresting him.

Alp's case was therefore dismissed.