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Police failings in handling of 2005 car crash investigation

14 March 2014

Authority finds failings by Police in handling of 2005 car crash investigation

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report has found that multiple failings by Southern District Police enabled the criminal conduct of two officers to go undiscovered following a car crash in Alexandra involving a Police officer and a 17-year-old. However, the Authority found no evidence of a conspiracy amongst the officers overseeing the crash investigation.

The Authority today released the results of its independent investigation into the Police handling of the crash investigation and its aftermath.

On 14 July 2005 a car crash occurred on a country road on the outskirts of Alexandra involving an unmarked Police Ute driven by Senior Constable Neil Ford and a Honda car driven by Shane Cribb. Constable Dairne Cassidy was appointed to investigate the crash and Mr Cribb was subsequently charged with careless driving causing injury. He was convicted in March 2006. Since January 2006 the Authority has received a number of letters alleging that Police unfairly and unjustly attached the blame for the crash to Mr Cribb – either to pervert the course of justice in order to protect a fellow officer, or through an incompetent investigation that lacked thoroughness. After a rehearing was ordered in 2008 on the basis of new evidence, Police decided not to offer any evidence and Mr Cribb’s conviction was overturned.

Subsequently the Police carried out criminal investigations which resulted in Senior Constable Ford being convicted of perjury and Constable Cassidy being convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Both officers are no longer employed by the New Zealand Police.

In releasing today’s report the Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said the Authority’s investigation found multiple failings by the Police, including a lack of adequate supervision and leadership and a failure to critically examine evidence and remedy deficiencies identified during the investigation. Police also failed to address concerns about the crash investigation in a timely manner.

“These inactions resulted in Police not uncovering the truth about the crash for over two years, causing much undue stress to Mr Cribb and his supporters. Furthermore the mishandling of the crash investigation also greatly damaged the reputation of Southern District Police,” Sir David said.

“The investigation also considered allegations of a Police ‘cover-up’. However the Authority has not found any evidence that there was a conspiracy amongst the Police officers overseeing the crash investigation.”

The Authority notes that the conduct of the officers involved in this case predates the Code of Conduct procedure introduced by Police following the enactment of the Policing Act 2008. The former twelve month time limit on instituting disciplinary proceedings therefore applies and consequently the Authority makes no recommendations for further action against the officers concerned. The Authority also notes that since this incident Police have improved their supervision and peer-review processes.

The release of today’s report comes more than eight-and-a-half years since the car crash. In concluding its investigation the Authority found that Police individual and collective failures in addressing concerns about the crash investigation caused unacceptable and unjustified delays.

The Authority itself also notes that it contributed to this delay and has recently changed its processes to ensure that it completes investigations more quickly than it has done in the past.

A copy of the Authority’s report is available here.

ENDS

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