New Zealand Health Minister Andrew Little
Anti-vaccine protesters claim they can make a citizen's arrest of NZ Health Minister Andrew Little. Image by Ben McKay/AAP IMAGES

Little chance of NZ health minister’s arrest for ‘culpable murder’

AAP FactCheck February 15, 2022

New Zealanders can make a citizen’s arrest of Health Minister Andrew Little for ‘culpable murder’ under the Crimes Act.


False. The claim is based on a misreading of the Crimes Act and a misunderstanding of ‘culpable murder’.

A protester arrested at New Zealand’s Parliament House on February 9 claims the Crimes Act gives him the right to make a citizen’s arrest of Health Minister Andrew Little for “culpable murder”. 

The social media claim centres on the death of Dunedin man Rory Nairn from myocarditis after receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in November 2021. However, experts say the claim the minister can be arrested is “nonsense”.

They told AAP FactCheck the claim misinterprets the Crimes Act and what culpable homicide (“culpable murder”) means. The experts also pointed out that a citizen’s arrest doesn’t exist in NZ except in detaining someone committing a crime.

The Facebook post shows a photo of Mr Little next to the headline, “Kiwi citizens initiate arrest of Health Minister Andrew Little”. The graphic is sponsored by right-wing conspiracy media group Counterspin. The post links to a February 2 article on Rumble that says Taranaki engineer Brett Power initiated the arrest under the charge of “culpable murder”.

In a video on the page, Mr Power says: “We’re going to use the Crimes Act 1961, section 35 which says that any person without a warrant can go and make an arrest on anyone else who’s causing injury to another person committing a crime with a greater penalty than three years imprisonment … The charge that we will be bringing to the police is that this was culpable murder, and that is bigger than three years’ penalty so we’ll be justified in going to arrest the minister of health” (video mark 7min 57sec).

Another Facebook post claims that NZ Police accepted the manslaughter charges, inviting people affected by the vaccine to come forward as “witnesses”. In a video posted to Facebook on February 5, Mr Power says they have been given a case number by police. Different footage of the same event was shared here.

NZ Police told AAP FactCheck they were aware of claims of arrest warrants being issued in connection to MPs, but Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said arrest warrants could only be issued by the court where a charging document had been filed against a person and it was necessary to compel their attendance in court.

“No such arrest warrants have been issued,” he said in an email.

An Instagram post from February 9 shows Mr Power trying to serve his arrest warrant on Mr Little, but is himself arrested when he tries to force his way through a police cordon around Parliament House. 

Emeritus Professor Jeremy Finn of the University of Canterbury, co-author of a textbook on criminal procedure, told AAP FactCheck the claim is “complete nonsense”.

“There is no basis at all for an allegation that Andrew Little is criminally liable for the death of the unfortunate man dying after being vaccinated,” Prof Finn said in an email.

“Even if it could be shown that the vaccine caused the death, culpable homicide (under section 160 of the Act) requires that the death result from an unlawful act – and vaccination is not unlawful. It would also have to be shown that the act of vaccination was in itself a dangerous act – which the statistics simply do not show.”

Prof Finn also said section 35 of the Crimes Act only allowed for the arrest of someone in the act of committing a crime, not for something which occurred in the past.

University of Auckland’s Associate Professor Scott Optican also said there was no power of citizen’s arrest in NZ and section 35 simply protects people from liability or criminal responsibility if they detain someone found committing an offence.

“Neither Andrew Little nor anyone else in NZ involved in the authorisation, rollout, administration or otherwise of the COVID vaccine is committing any offence (much less being found committing one),” he told AAP FactCheck in an email.

Optican said NZ’s vaccine protocols were authorised by law and only undertaken with consent, “so no crime is being committed in the first place, much less any kind of culpable homicide”. 

He says culpable homicide in NZ generally requires that a person intends to kill someone and causes their death – or their unlawful act causes death in some manner.

“It is clear that neither Andrew Little nor anyone else in NZ is trying to intentionally kill someone via authorising or administering the COVID vaccine. In fact, just the opposite. They’re trying to protect people from death or serious illness.” 

The Verdict

New Zealanders cannot make a citizen’s arrest of the health minister for “culpable murder”. Criminal law experts dismissed the claim that the death of a man after receiving a COVID vaccine falls under the category of culpable homicide. They told AAP FactCheck the power of citizen’s arrest, as claimed in the posts, does not exist and section 35 of the Crimes Act only allows for the arrest of someone in the act of committing a crime.

False — The claim is inaccurate.

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