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Labour Wants Political Police

Friday 10 May 2002

Police Minister George Hawkins and the Prime Minister should immediately repudiate Al Morrison's claim on National Radio today that the police will suffer "repercussions" for pursuing an enquiry into Helen Clark's art forgery says ACT's Justice spokesman Stephen Franks.

"In an interview with Geoff Robinson today Al Morrison described police conduct as `bad process' a `stuff up', and said the Government was threatening to take the police to court. He said it was a breach of natural justice because the police had been enquiring without informing the Prime Minister or the Minister of Police.

"Sir Robert Peele established the police as an agency with statutory duties under constitutional protection from political direction. One sound reason was for cases such as this.

"A senior politician suspected of crime must be investigated fully, fearlessly, and without favour. There is nothing more corrosive of public morality or private trust in government and the rule of law than a belief that pulling political strings or threatening political reprisals can let big fish get away with offences for which little fish could be hounded.

"There are many more serious frauds and other crimes going inadequately investigated because the police have not enough resources. Our law and the courts let criminals simply recycle themselves. But official or politician's `crime' must always be investigated, to preserve our culture of non-corruption.

"The police are applying precisely the right priority in taking the complaint seriously. They have to make sure that the rule of law prevails. A court can decide the offence is trivial, but there should be no suggestion that the police must discretely drop or overlook a complaint simply because of the status and power of the alleged offender.

"Al Morrison talked darkly about not notifying the suspect. Where the suspect may impede the investigation or threaten the police, or threaten others in a way that might make them unwilling to tell the truth or co-operate in the investigation, the police should conduct investigations discretely. From Mr Morrison's account the Prime Minister does now intend to threaten the Police, so their discretion was justified.

"Police should also investigate discreetly where they might find there is no foundation to the complaint. That helps avoid unfair and unmerited publicity. A discreet enquiry can be discontinued without embarrassment.

"The Dover Samuels case showed what happened when the Prime Minister was given early warning of a possible investigation. Richard Prebble wrote with my concurrence to the Prime Minister. He urged her to conduct a confidential enquiry. We didn't tell anyone including our own caucus colleagues. But the Prime Minister circulated our letter as a tactic to discredit Mr Samuels, and as a foundation for a false allegation of muck raking against ACT.

"I believe the police have been wise and proper in their approach to this.

"The incidents may be trivial in themselves but the rule of law and the finest traditions of an independent police require nothing less than what the police have done," Stephen Franks said.


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