Flaws in Police investigation of off-duty officer
Authority finds flaws in Christchurch Police investigation of off-duty officer
An Independent Police Conduct Authority review of a Police investigation into an assault on a Christchurch youth in 2011 by an off-duty Police officer has identified shortcomings on the part of Christchurch Police.
In releasing today’s report Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said despite the serious nature of the off-duty officer’s actions on the night of 12 June 2011 a criminal prosecution was never undertaken.
“In investigating the Police decision not to prosecute the Authority found that the decision not to interview the officer as part of a criminal investigation was a departure from the proper process.
“The Authority also found that the decision not to prosecute the off-duty officer because it was not in the public interest to do so was made without proper consideration of the prosecution guidelines,” Sir David said.
The incident involving the off-duty Police officer occurred when his letterbox at his Fendalton house was destroyed around midnight on 12 June 2011. On hearing the smashing noise and seeing a group of people in his driveway, the off-duty officer collected his Police baton before heading outside. By this time the group had left the driveway but the officer could see a group of people nearby, walking away. The off-duty officer got into his car and after catching up with the group he approached them on foot asking who had smashed his letterbox. When one of the youths, a 17-year-old, told the off-duty officer he didn’t know who was responsible the off-duty officer hit him multiple times with his baton.
Later that day the 17-year-old’s mother contacted Police to report the attack.
During the Police investigation the 17-year-old and his parents were interviewed. Despite wanting to minimise any impact it would have on their son’s schooling, the 17-year-olds parents were insistent that some action be taken against the officer.
In August 2011 the Professional Standards Manager, who was also the Employment Practices Manager for Christchurch Police, submitted a report to the Acting District Commander recommending that the officer should not be prosecuted as it would not be in the public interest. He considered the Solicitor-General’s prosecution guidelines in reaching his decision. The Acting District Commander approved a recommendation that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the officer.
The Authority found that the processes followed by Christchurch Police in reaching their decision not to prosecute the off-duty officer involved were unfair.
The Authority notes that any reconsideration of the prosecution decision at this late stage would be an abuse of process given that the officer was informed he would not be charged prior to engaging in the employment process. Therefore the Authority makes no further recommendations. The officer’s conduct was subsequently referred for an employment investigation pursuant to the Police Code of Conduct.