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PM Hits Out At Politicisation Of Doone Defamation

Prime Minister Hits Out At Politicisation Of Doone Defamation

By Scoop Chief Reporter Kevin List

Both the National Party and the ACT Party have somehow obtained ‘briefs of evidence’ prepared for the aborted Doone Vs Fairfax defamation case.

Among the briefs of evidence held and released by National and ACT, was the brief of evidence of the Prime Minister along with former Sunday Star-Times journalist, Oskar Alley and former editor of the Sunday Star-Times, Sue Chetwin.

Scoop understands that other former members of the Sunday Star-Times had prepared 'briefs of evidence' however a spokesperson for the National Party said they had not received these. The Prime Minister considered the purpose of releasing these ‘briefs of evidence’ to the National and ACT parties was ‘clearly political’.

“We have it from court that these documents did not come from the court. Fairfax also confirms that Fairfax’s lawyers have not released them. [It now appears] either these documents have come from Mr Doone, or his lawyers, or from others that gave briefs,” she told yesterday's post cabinet press conference..

It is still uncertain whether any tapes exist of what the Prime Minister said to Mr Alley and Ms Chetwin in January 2000, regarding Sunday Star-Times stories concerning former Police Commissioner, Peter Doone. The Prime Minister seemed of the opinion that if these existed they would no doubt appear.

“If there are tapes no doubt they will emerge in due course - but we don’t have any evidence there are any.”

The Prime Minister re-iterated that in her opinion the substance of the Sunday Star-Times stories concerning Mr Doone and his partner being stopped by a police patrol, on election day 1999, was true. According to briefs of evidence by former employees of the Sunday Star-Times they regarded all aspects of their January 2000 story as true after running it past the Prime Minister prior to publishing.

Mr Doone is now suing the Prime Minister because of certain details involved in those stories. Mr Doone considers now, that words attributed to him by the Sunday Star-Times and later retracted by that paper, may have led to him resigning as Police Commissioner. The Prime Minister was of a very different view.

“The truth is that whatever was said by Mr Doone, in the end, was irrelevant. Mr Doone’s problem was that he did speak in this situation [his partner being pulled over for having no lights on]. That meant he intervened in a way which, by the constable’s evidence to official inquiries, inhibited the constable from doing his job. The constable saw a car driving without lights. The constable stopped the car. The constable approached the car with what is known as a ‘sniffer’. Mr Doone spoke to the constable and the constable felt he could not do his duty.

"All that is clear in the official reports - the Police Complaints Authority summed it up by deeming the Commissioner’s behaviour as undesirable. The Deputy-Commissioner deemed it [Mr Doone’s behaviour] as inappropriate.”


Commissioner’s Actions Criticised By Deputy Commissioner

In the Robinson report, Mr Doone’s actions on the evening of 27 November 1999 were criticised:

“The events…on 27 November 1999 call into question the integrity of the New Zealand Police as charcterised by the actions of Mr Doone, whatever his motive, and Constables Main and Haldane. Further, they cast doubt on the integrity of the road safety messages conveyed to the public by the New Zealand Police and our partner road safety agencies.

"This is entirely unfortunate. I find that Commissioner Doone’s interactions were inappropriate…these matters are distressing for the potential they have to impugn the perception of the integrity of individuals and the New Zealand police.”

It was made clear by the Prime Minister that had Mr Doone, in early 2000, not agreed to settle with the Government and resign, then steps would have been put in place to force him out of his position. The Prime Minister was adamant that the words attributed to Mr Doone in the Sunday Star-Times reports, and later re-tracted, had no bearing on what position the Government was coming to with regard to Mr Doone’s future.

“The exact words he uttered were never the issue, nor in most peoples mind would the words Mr Doone objects to, be interpreted as any more damaging than saying, 'we’ll be on our way then', which is what Constable Main believes he said.”

Mr Doone was then given the sort of advice that self help coaches and motivators often give people traumatised by past events.

“I believe it is time that Mr Doone took responsibility for his own demise, it was he - the Commissioner of Police - charged with upholding the law - who intervened when his partner’s car was stopped, when she was driving without lights and he knew that she had consumed alcohol,” counselled the Prime Minister.

At the time the Government came in for considerable criticism, particularly from the ACT party for settling with Mr Doone rather than firing him. Ken Shirley, then ACT justice spokesperson harrumphed upon hearing of the terms of Mr Doone’s resignation:

"This is an embarrassment to the Government and to the Police Force. The Government doesn't have confidence in Peter Doone, his actions in interacting with the rookie constable on election night were found to be 'undesirable' and yet they are allowing him to save face on full pay for six months.”


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