Inquiry into allegations against Ms Helen Clark
Outcome of the inquiry into allegations against Ms Helen Clark
National News Release, 17:35, 5 July 2002
Statement from the Commissioner of Police
I am able to formally announce today the outcome of the Police inquiry into the complaint alleging fraudulent activities by Ms Helen Clark.
Given the high public interest and the nature of the allegations against Ms Clark, I determined it was appropriate to investigate the complaint and appointed a senior investigator, Detective Superintendent Malcolm Burgess, for this task.
Mr Burgess’ investigation focussed primarily on the painting provided to the Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE) charity in 1999.
Mr Burgess carried out a thorough, proper and careful investigation, which has necessarily taken some time. He has presented me with his findings in a comprehensive report. His investigation established that a prima facie case was able to be made out against Ms Clark for forgery – an offence created by Section 264 of the Crimes Act 1961.
The same circumstances disclosed key involvement by a member of Ms Clark’s staff, Mrs Dawn Bush. Mrs Bush arranged the production of the painting for Ms Clark to sign and subsequently provided it to the charity, SAFE, for auction. Mrs Bush’s actions in doing this also resulted in a prima facie case able to be made out against her for forgery and for the uttering of a forged document.
The Solicitor General has reviewed the Police inquiry and concurs with Mr Burgess’ view that the circumstances establish that a prima facie case is able to be made out against Ms Clark for the offence of forgery, and against Mrs Bush for the offences of forgery and uttering a forged document. This is in respect of actions relating to the SAFE painting.
Not withstanding the fact that I have reached the view there exists a prima facie case for forgery and uttering a forged document, consideration of all the relevant factors has led me to the view no prosecution action will be taken against either Ms Clark or Mrs Bush.
It is not my intention as part of this announcement to go through the detail of the inquiry. Nevertheless, some explanation is required as to how I came to my decision.
The law relating to forgery has some complex legal aspects which are open to interpretation. Forgery does not require an intent to defraud and there is no requirement for any person to be specifically or financially harmed.
The appropriate test is that a false document is made with an intent for that document to be acted on as genuine at the time it was made.
I am advised that the SAFE painting became a false document at the time Ms Clark signed it and that the intent can be inferred by the context of those actions and the actions that followed.
The decision of whether or not to prosecute is vested in me as Commissioner and must be made consistent with my constabular oath of office. Though the decision to prosecute would normally be taken at a lower level within Police, this investigation has involved allegations against the Prime Minister and it therefore appropriately falls to me.
Due to the nature of the complaint, I ensured that the investigation was thorough, the advice from the Solicitor General comprehensive and my review of the facts sufficiently detailed to address all possible options.
In making my decision I was guided by the Crown Law Prosecution Guidelines which require me to apply two tests:
- Is there sufficient evidence to bring a prosecution; and
- Is it in the public interest to prosecute?
I have already covered the question of sufficiency of evidence.
With regards to the question of whether or not it is in the public interest to prosecute, I was guided again by the advice of the Solicitor General. That advice strongly counselled against prosecution.
I also note that all parties were motivated by the desire to assist a charity. There was no personal gain disclosed on the part of any participant and, though ignorance of the law is not an excuse, there is no evidence that any party realised the significance of their actions.
No one directly affected by the actions of Ms Clark or Mrs Bush wants to make a complaint or be involved in a prosecution.
Consideration of all the relevant factors led me to the view that prosecution was not appropriate. However, my findings today should serve as notice that there are inherent dangers in those actions.
The Prime Minister, Mrs Bush and other principal parties in this matter were informed of my decision earlier today.
This public announcement of the findings and my decision brings the matter to a close. It is not my intention, nor do I feel it is appropriate to make further comment on this matter at this time.
Commissioner of Police