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Did The PM Treat Doone With Honesty And Integrity?

Did The PM Treat Doone With Honesty And Integrity?

Did Prime Minister Helen Clark treat Police Commissioner Peter Doone with honesty and integrity?

Rodney Hide Monday, 9 May 2005

Extract of press conference, level 10, Bowen House, 1pm, Monday 9 May

I have called today’s Press Conference to examine one question: Did Prime Minister Helen Clark treat Police Commissioner Peter Doone with honesty and integrity?

To answer the question I draw on the briefs of evidence signed for the High Court by former Sunday Star-Times editor Sue Chetwin, former Sunday Star-Times reporter Oskar Alley and Helen Clark herself.

The statements show that Prime Minister Helen Clark:

  • Confirmed for the media a false and damning story against Police Commissioner Peter Doone;
  • Undermined cabinet process by leaking confidential information;
  • Continues to make misleading statements about her role in the affair.
    Helen Clark Brief Of Evidence
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/pdfs/brief_helen_clark.pdf (8 Mb .PDF)
    Sue Chetwin (then editor SST) Brief Of Evidence
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/pdfs/brief_sue_chetwin.pdf (10 Mb .PDF)
    Oskar Alley (then reporter SST) Brief Of Evidence
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/pdfs/brief_oskar_alley.pdf (45 Mb .PDF)

    Media enquiries

    On 14 January 2000 reporter Oskar Alley rang Prime Minister Helen Clark seeking confirmation for the claim that the “constable had a sniffer device in his hand as he approached the car to test for alcohol” and that Peter Doone said “that won’t be necessary.”

    The Prime Minister confirmed that he was accurate and specifically said, “You’re not wrong”.

    Helen Clark was in the perfect position to confirm or deny the story. As Mr Alley notes, “both the Robinson and the PCA reports into the matter would have been completed, signed off and handed to appropriate Government Ministers. The Prime Minister made it clear that she had seen both reports”.

    The Prime Minister in her brief of evidence accepts she confirmed the claims:

    28 p5 “I do not now recall the detail of that discussion, but I accept that I would have confirmed to him that information held by Ministers included allegations that the Constable who stopped the car occupied by the Commissioner had a sniffer in his hand. It also included information that Mr Doone was said to have stated to the constable during their discussion “that won’t be necessary”, seemingly as reference to the device.”

    “I am informed that Mr Alley put those propositions to me and I said words to the effect, “you’re not wrong”. I accept that this is correct although I do not have a current recollection of this detail. I am certain that I drew attention to the issue that Mr Doone had disputed these details during the inquiries to which I have referred.”

    In fact, nowhere in the inquiries does Mr Doone dispute that he said, “That won’t be necessary”.

    He doesn’t dispute that he said it because nowhere in the reports or evidence for the reports is it ever alleged that Mr Doone said any such thing.

    The Sunday Star-Times made four additional calls to the Prime Minister to confirm their story.

    Call number two: Mr Alley rang the Prime Minister again on 15 January 2000 and “obtained an assurance that the information we had discussed earlier was accurate”.

    Call number three: The Sunday Star-Times Editor Sue Chetwin also rang the Prime Minister to check that Mr Doone had uttered the words claimed and that the constable had a sniffer in his hand.

    The Prime Minister confirmed for her that she understood both statements to be accurate.

    Sue Chetwin states:

    18 p7 “On the basis of this [i.e. the Prime Minister’s] assurance, we (the Sunday Star-Times staff) believed that the Constable who spoke to Peter Doone had in fact been holding a “sniffer”, and that Peter Doone had in fact said to him “That won’t be necessary” with regards to possible breath test of the driver of the vehicle.”

    Prime Minister Helen Clark confirmed the claims on three separate occasions.

    Her confirmation was sufficient for the Sunday Star-Times to be confident to publish the story front page 16 January 2000.

    Following publication Mr Peter Doone issued a statement declaring the story incorrect and defamatory.

    Sue Chetwin checked again with the Prime Minister with call number four:

    23 p8 “I had a second telephone conversation with the Prime Minister, for the purpose of confirming the accuracy of her comments the previous week. I also asked her if she could share parts of the reports with us. She confirmed that she would and Oskar later spoke to her again.”

    24 p8 “The Prime Minister confirmed that, on her understanding: what was published in the 16 January 2000 article was accurate; that The Sunday Star-Times had nothing to worry about; and that we would be vindicated when the reports were released. Miss Clark was very clear during this conversation that the newspaper had not reported any incorrect information. Indeed, she encouraged the newspaper to continue its investigation, as the matter was reaching its critical stages.”

    26 p8 “Had the Prime Minister resiled from those comments I would have taken steps to ensure that we did not continue to report those facts. In particular, any such change would have been made clear to Anthony Hubbard before he wrote his 23 January 2000 editorial. But, given the Prime Minister’s comments to me, this was not necessary.”

    Call number five: Oskar Alley then rang the Prime Minister again to seek assurance from her that his previous story was correct and to gain information for his next story:

    104 p16 “I took comfort from the Prime Minister’s comments. She had the relevant documents and reports, parts of which she read to me over the telephone. With the benefit of that information in front of her, she confirmed that there was nothing to worry about in the story the previous week. In effect, she confirmed that, despite Peter Doone’s statement, the 16 January 2000 article had been accurate.”

    105 p16 “She also read to me parts of the Robinson Police Inquiry, which were quoted in the story.”

    106 p16 “In the story parts of my interview with the Prime Minister are quoted verbatim, including parts of the report of the Robinson Report.”

    107 p16 “I specifically put it to the Prime Minister that they would ask Peter Doone to fall on his sword. It was confirmed to me he might, that that was in the plan, and that that was what the Government were going to ask him to do.”

    Prime Minister Helen Clark in her brief of evidence taken on 13 April 2005 accepts that she reassured Mr Oskar Alley and gave him more information from the confidential reports that she had:

    33 p6 “I recall that I went through some aspects of the information contained in the Police Complaints Authority report. Mr Alley was concerned to ensure that the article which had gone to press the previous week was accurate. I confirmed to him that based on my then understanding the factual position that he had discussed with me was, as far as I knew, accurate.”

    The Sunday Star-Times editorial of 23 January 2000 called on Mr Doone to resign, said the Prime Minister “appeared” to have lost confidence in him, and repeats the false claim that he had told the constable, “That won’t be necessary”.

    The Sunday Star-Times story of the 23 January 2000 states:

    “Government sources told the Sunday Star-Times Doone will be asked to fall on his sword. The request would be made to allow him to salvage some dignity. It was also viewed as preferable to a sacking which could prompt legal action.”

    The “government sources” we now know to be the Prime Minister herself.

    The story states:

    “Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday she would not comment on Doone’s fate or on what she would recommend to Cabinet.”

    We now know that wasn’t truth. The Prime Minister had been commenting at length to the Sunday Star-Times and making her position very clear.

    The article also states verbatim from the Robinson report as read to Mr Alley by the Prime Minister.

    Accuracy of the Prime Minister’s claims

    The Police Complaints Authority report and the Rob Robinson report were released on 26 January 2000 – the day after Mr Peter Doone resigned as Commissioner.

    Nowhere was it claimed that Mr Doone uttered the words, “That won’t be necessary”

    The Sunday Star-Times issued an apology and a retraction.

    The statement “That won’t be necessary” that Helen Clark had confirmed for the Sunday Star-Times was not true. The Sunday Star-Times was not vindicated as the Prime Minister had promised.

    The fake claim was damning. It accused the Police Commissioner of obstructing a police officer in the course of his duty at the very time the Cabinet was considering Mr Doone’s future. It whipped up public perception against Mr Doone – which was a key consideration for the Cabinet.

    Helen Clark dealt to Police Commissioner Peter Doone in a dishonest and underhand way.

    Cabinet process

    Prime Minister Helen Clark gave Attorney-General Margaret Wilson responsibility for the “matter” of what to do about Mr Doone on 5 January 2000.

    Decision day for Cabinet was to be 25 January 2000. Margaret Wilson prepared a paper for Cabinet on 21 January stating “our decisions should therefore only be taken with the utmost care, after proper process and with all necessary considerations.”

    The concerns detailed in her report were Mr Doone’s “poor judgement in interacting with the constable in the manner he did” and “the perceptions created by the incident in terms of the wider perception of the integrity of the law-enforcement system”.

    The negative perceptions we now know were being fanned by Helen Clark.

    Helen Clark confirmed a false story to the media that was published 16 January. She reconfirmed the claims the following week and leaked that Mr Doone was to be asked, “to fall on his sword” and she leaked verbatim passages of the Robinson report and the PCA report that was before cabinet and secret.

    Prime Minister Helen Clark undermined the Cabinet process by confirming a false story, leaking confidential cabinet information, and telling the media that she wanted Commissioner Peter Doone to “fall on his sword”.

    Prime Minister Helen Clark downplays involvement

    Helen Clark’s response on Monday 2 May 2005 when asked by the media was to say that she could not recall “what was said in conversations five and a quarter years ago”.

    But she only needed to cast her mind back three weeks to when she signed her statement of evidence off. In her statement she accepted that she had told Mr Alley, “you’re not wrong”.

    It’s hard to believe she couldn’t remember them.

    Helen Clark has told the media at her post-Cabinet press conference “I don’t have evidence that I corroborated it”. But in her statement of evidence she accepts that she did corroborate the story.

    She had her own sworn statement as evidence she corroborated the story.

    Helen Clark also claimed at the press conference that she was “pretty certain” that she would have told the Sunday Star-Times that “the evidence was contested”.

    But the key phrase at issue was not contested.

    In Parliament last Tuesday when asked what were the dates she spoke to the Sunday Star-Times in a primary question on notice Helen Clark replied, “I cannot recall specific dates from over 5 years ago”.

    But her statement of evidence has specific dates in it – and times.

    When asked in Parliament whether she verified the words, “That won’t be necessary,” Helen Clark told Parliament, “I can only imagine that the reporter put those words to me and I would not have been in a position to confirm them, because they were not in the reports”.

    But she didn’t need to imagine at all. She only needed to check her statement of evidence to see that she accepts that she did confirm them. She specifically accepts that she said when the words were put to her, “you’re not wrong”.

    She also told Parliament “I do not believe that incorrect information was provided”. But as we have seen she most certainly did provide incorrect information.

    Helen Clark the following day told Parliament that she stood by her statement that, “I do not believe that incorrect information was provided”.

    On Wednesday 4 May the Prime Minister said that she was certain in relation to the words “that won’t be necessary” that she would have drawn the paper’s attention to the fact that what Mr Doone was said was contested.

    Rodney Hide: Who are we to believe: the Sunday Star-Times, which told the court that the Prime Minister confirmed to it that Peter Doone had said “that won’t be necessary”, or the Prime Minister, who tells this House that she did not confirm it for the paper?

    Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am confident that I drew the paper’s attention to the fact that what the commissioner said was contested.

    But it was never contested that Mr Doone said “that won’t be necessary”.

    Prime Minister Helen Clark has been both evasive and misleading in answering questions from the media and in Parliament.

    It’s easy to see why.

    Helen Clark accepted Lianne Dalziel’s resignation in dealing with the Media she had “crossed between a statement which was misleading and a statement which was untrue.”

    But that appears that is exactly what Helen Clark has done here. And with the aim of getting rid of a police commissioner that she did not want.

    And the answer to the question?

    Prime Minister Helen Clark did not treat Police Commissioner Peter Doone with honesty or integrity.

    Her treatment of him was underhand and dishonest.

    That’s how she treated the country’s top cop.

    Helen Clark campaigned last election on her integrity and honesty.

    Her treatment of Peter Doone reveals how she actually behaves in office.

    Helen Clark needs to front up in Parliament and give a full explanation of her actions in dispatching Commissioner Peter Doone.


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