Po­lice silent on pre­vi­ous poach­ing pros­e­cu­tions

Otago Daily Times - - Regions - PAM JONES

PO­LICE have re­fused to say whether some his­toric poach­ing pros­e­cu­tions have been made in­cor­rectly or un­fairly, fol­low­ing com­ments in an In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Con­duct Au­thor­ity (IPCA) re­port that seem to in­di­cate that has oc­curred.

The IPCA re­port into al­leged il­le­gal hunt­ing by two off­duty Christchurch po­lice of­fi­cers, Se­nior Con­sta­bles Gary Don­nelly and Dou­gal Adams, in Cen­tral Otago last year, found there were mul­ti­ple short­com­ings in the po­lice han­dling of the case, and there was a ‘‘strong pub­lic be­lief’’ that po­lice han­dling of un­law­ful hunt­ing in Cen­tral Otago was in­con­sis­tent, ‘‘which leaves po­lice vul­ner­a­ble to al­le­ga­tions of un­fair­ness and par­tial­ity’’.

The re­port found there was suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to pros­e­cute the Christchurch of­fi­cers, but said the de­ci­sion not to pros­e­cute them was ‘‘rea­son­able and jus­ti­fi­able on pub­lic in­ter­est grounds’’.

It was greeted with dis­be­lief by two of those who com­plained to the IPCA about the case.

Shan­non Parker, whose watch­dog group the New Zealand Po­lice Con­duct As­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sented a group of hun­ters who com­plained about the case, said she was fur­ther con­cerned by a sug­ges­tion in the IPCA re­port that some his­toric il­le­gal hunt­ing pros­e­cu­tions had been made by po­lice in­cor­rectly.

The re­port says the IPCA asked for the area com­man­der’s opin­ion about whether the de­ci­sion not to pros­e­cute the Christchurch of­fi­cers was in line with other in­ci­dents in Cen­tral Otago.

‘‘He agreed that there were prob­a­bly in­con­sis­ten­cies in the way po­lice have dealt with al­leged un­law­ful hunt­ing in­ci­dents be­cause the of­fence is broad, and the se­ri­ous­ness of the cir­cum­stances vary’’, the re­port said.

The re­port then stated th­ese com­ments from the Area Com­man­der:

‘‘At times I think that we have not helped our­selves . . . and I’ve had some files across my desk where we’ve ac­tu­ally pros­e­cuted some­one un­der the [Wild An­i­mal Con­trol] Act here and when you looked at their level of of­fend­ing and their pre­vi­ous we prob­a­bly should’ve, those peo­ple should’ve ac­tu­ally got a warn­ing and we may have cre­ated [an ex­pec­ta­tion] with the lo­cal com­mu­nity . . . when we look at the grad­u­ated re­sponse and look­ing at the So­lic­i­tor­gen­eral’s guide­lines around pros­e­cu­tion some of th­ese peo­ple po­ten­tially shouldn’t have been pros­e­cuted.’’

The Otago Daily Times emailed po­lice to ask if some pre­vi­ous pros­e­cu­tions had been made in­cor­rectly or un­fairly and if there would be any review of pre­vi­ous cases of al­leged il­le­gal hunt­ing but po­lice said they would not make any fur­ther com­ment about the IPCA re­port.

Ms Parker said po­lice were still han­dling il­le­gal hunt­ing in­con­sis­tently, and more po­lice train­ing was needed.

One of the rea­sons po­lice gave for not pros­e­cut­ing the Christchurch of­fi­cers was that no shots had been fired or an­i­mals killed, but po­lice had pros­e­cuted other peo­ple when no shots had been fired or an­i­mals killed, she said.

‘‘Po­lice claim to have trained staff in March. I have re­cently dealt with a string of is­sues in the same [South­ern] district that re­lated to il­le­gal hunt­ing mat­ters — the re­sult was po­lice is­su­ing apolo­gies, with­draw­ing tres­pass no­tices and in one case with­draw­ing a for­mal warn­ing for il­le­gal hunt­ing. I would sug­gest they need more train­ing.’’

Steve Brown, an Omakau farmer who com­plained to the IPCA about the case of the Christchurch of­fi­cers, said his main con­cern now was that the IPCA’s de­fence of the de­ci­sion not to pros­e­cute the off­duty of­fi­cers had set a prece­dent.

‘‘The prob­lem with this is that if some­one catches a poacher now they can prob­a­bly get off be­cause they can say in court ‘well those two po­lice of­fi­cers didn’t get pros­e­cuted’.

‘‘It sets a prece­dent and new case law. And it’s made it dif­fi­cult for our lo­cal of­fi­cers who have been try­ing hard to sort out poach­ing. This IPCA re­port has made a mess for our lo­cal cops to clean up. I feel sorry for them, as this has made their job a lot harder.’’

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