Interest charge

Cop ‘abused’ prosecutor to drop assault charge

An assault charge against a man was dropped after a police officer intervened.  (File photo)

Stacy Squires / Stuff

An assault charge against a man was dropped after a police officer intervened. (File photo)

A Northland police officer has been found guilty of improperly influencing the prosecution of the son of a man he knows personally.

The son was charged with assault after hitting a woman outside a bar on Vine Street in Whangārei.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority concluded that the senior officer interfered with the prosecution, leading to the dropping of an assault charge.

The officer knew the man’s father as a business acquaintance, according to the ruling, and told the police prosecutor it was a first charge and should be dropped.

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The authority said it was convinced the officer had a conflict of interest and was contacted by the father because of their relationship.

In texts consulted by the authority, the father asked the officer if he had made progress on the situation of his son.

A Northland police officer

Alden Williams / Stuff

A Northland police officer “made it clear” to a prosecutor that he had a personal relationship with a man facing an assault charge. (File photo)

“I’ll ring this afternoon,” replied the officer.

The son told authorities he decided not to make a statement after his father spoke to the officer.

The authority ruled that it was inappropriate for the officer to be involved in this conversation and advise the father that the son should not make a statement.

The officer also spoke to the prosecutor and ‘clarified’ that he knew the man’s partner and son might be eligible for diversion.

The prosecutor told the authority that he told the officer, “Look, since there could be a personal relationship or a perceived relationship, let me deal with it. I’ll take a look and let you know how I do.”

After reviewing CCTV footage of the alleged assault with the officer, the prosecutor decided “it was in self-defense”.

He had been arguing with the woman’s boyfriend when he knocked, connecting with her.

“He was at a stage where he was leaning against a wall and under the circumstances I would have done the same.”

The prosecutor said the son tried to get away from the woman’s boyfriend, who was aggressive towards him. It was not reasonable to prosecute, he said.

The authority concluded that the officer “used his position” as a senior police official to influence the outcome of the prosecution and the prosecutor succumbed to this.

The officer considered the son a “good kid,” according to the ruling.

Police Commissioner Tony Hill, Northland District Commander, acknowledged the decision on Thursday.

“Police accept the IPCA’s conclusion that there was a conflict of interest for the senior officer and that he should not have been involved in the case,” Hill said.

“An employment inquiry has been concluded.”