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Police Put Record Straight On Phillip Edwards Case

Police put record straight
National News Release 2:01pm 16 September 2004

Auckland City Police have set the record straight around many of the allegations levelled against Police over the investigation of an incident that occurred at a private residence on September 12, 2002.

Acting Auckland City District commander, Detective Superintendent Gavin Jones, held a media briefing today, just hours after Phillip Layton Edwards, convicted of the manslaughter of David McNee, was sentenced in the Auckland High Court.

Detective Superintendent Jones strongly refuted allegations of political, judicial and Police headquarters’ influence over a decision made by members of his district’s CIB staff, to not prosecute Edwards for the reported 2002 offence.

He said:

"Firstly, let me respond to some of the allegations made by various people and organisations over the past weeks.

1. That a man made a false complaint to Police on September 12, 2002, about an aggravated burglary in his Morningside home –

That’s not true.

Police responded to a report of crimes at an address and Police were then - and still are - satisfied that offences occurred on that date at that home and that the complainant was the victim.

2. That there was pressure from "above" on Police to drop any ideas of prosecuting an identified violent offender -

That’s not true.

The investigation into the complaint was an area-based one and any decisions made by the investigators were taken at "area" level and were entirely appropriate and free of third party influence. The victim, through his lawyer, did tell Police that he had been too traumatised to give evidence. Police have a responsibility to take victims’ views into account and it is quite proper for victims to be consulted and listened to as part of the decision-making process.

3. That the head of the investigation wanted to prosecute an identified suspect but was overruled -

That’s not true.

The Detective Sergeant in charge of the investigation consulted with his supervisor, a Detective Senior Sergeant who, on consideration of all the facts presented to him and in the knowledge that the complainant did not wish to take the matter any further, made an entirely legitimate decision not to prosecute.

4. That Police had DNA and a confession and didn’t need anything further to be able to prosecute –

DNA and a fingerprint were found at the scene but the presence of both are not, of themselves, evidence of guilt or any wrongdoing. It just means the person who they belonged to was present.

During an off-the-record [un-cautioned] discussion with the suspect in April 2003, Police obtained his version of events of September 12, 2002. That discussion was inadmissible as evidence in a Court. Before a confession can be categorised as such and tendered as evidence, it must be admissible.

5. That Police withheld information during the McNee homicide trial against Phillip Edwards that could have resulted in a murder verdict –

That’s not true. At no stage was any information withheld.

Detective Senior Sergeant Lance Burdett was the officer in charge of the McNee homicide investigation team. After lengthy background inquiries, the team found no evidence to suggest the victim, David McNee and the offender, Phillip Edwards, knew each other prior to their fatal encounter. Had evidence of a prior relationship been known, it would have been presented to the Court.


It’s also important to note the following:

When a suspect for the 2002 offence in Morningside was identified, he was two months into an 18-month term of imprisonment and was not, as some would have you believe, "walking the streets of Auckland".

In order to be able to prove that offences like burglary and/or robbery (which is theft accompanied by assault) occurred, Police need to call a witness and/or complainant to give evidence. In this instance, the witness/complainant had advised, through his lawyer, that he did not wish to pursue the complaint and would not give evidence in Court.

When the decision not to prosecute was made, the Detective Sergeant who investigated the complaint had some concerns for the safety of the complainant and his family, so visited the suspect in prison on April 24, 2003.

He did this in order to establish whether there was any actual or potential ongoing risk to the householders.

At that time the suspect refused to discuss any matters about the complainant or the complainant’s address, on the record. Consequently an off-the-record [uncautioned] version of events was noted by the officer. It was not a legally admissible confession.

This is the only part of the file that was marked "Confidential – Not for unauthorised disclosure" and that was done in order to protect the privacy of individuals. The officer advised the suspect that he couldn’t be prosecuted as a result of giving his version of events in this manner – ie uncautioned.

The suspect’s version of events was at variance with the complainant’s and, because the complainant was not prepared to take the matter further, neither version could be proved or disproved. The Detective Sergeant warned the suspect about the incident and trespassed him from the complainant’s property.

I am entirely satisfied that the officers who investigated the complaint from a resident in Morningside, did so professionally and thoroughly. I am also satisfied the decisions they took to resolve the complaint were legitimate and appropriate.

It may well be that some of the things I’ve disclosed will lead to more questions. Many of them will be matters that I will need time to consider in terms of whether or not I can respond to them. On that basis I ’m unable to take any verbal questions in this forum. However, everyone here has the option of submitting requests for further information pursuant to the provisions of the Official Information Act. Such requests will be responded to in accordance with the provisions of that Act.

If anyone has any questions relating to the private business of individuals, they need to take those questions to the individuals concerned."

ENDS

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