No prosecutions for electoral complaints

No prosecutions for electoral complaints

National News

Police will not be making any further prosecutions in relation to complaints received from the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer arising from the 2005 general election.

The Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations, Roger Carson, said that after thorough investigation and consideration of the Solicitor General's Guidelines on criminal prosecutions the decision had been made that no prosecutions would take place besides the matter involving Television New Zealand, which had already been determined.

Police received a complaint in regard to the broadcast of an election advertisement by Television New Zealand during an opening address. On 9 February 2006 Police laid an information in the Auckland District Court charging Television New Zealand in relation to the breach. On 17 February the company appeared on this matter and entered a plea of guilty and was fined $2,500.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Carson said that in the case referred by the Chief Electoral Officer relating to the Labour Party pledge card and leaflet there was sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case in respect of an offence under s221 of the Electoral Act. Section 221 prohibits advertising promoting a party unless the secretary of the party gives written authorisation.

Taking into consideration the Solicitor General's Guidelines, it was deemed that a warning be issued of the risk of prosecution if a similar complaint was to be received in future.

On the case of alleged over-spending by the Labour Party there was insufficient evidence to indicate that an offence under s214b of the Electoral Act had been committed.

In the matter of the alleged over-expenditure on television broadcasting by the National Party, Police were not able to attribute responsibility for the mistaken GST over-expenditure to either the NZ National Party or to the Party's media buying agency and do not intend to charge either.

A number of complaints were referred by the Chief Electoral Officer relating to the Exclusive Brethren:

• On the issue relating to distribution of leaflets on polling day, inquiries by Police revealed that the Brethren took considerable measures to ensure no material was distributed on polling day, however, it appears that despite those efforts a very small amount of material was distributed. There was insufficient evidence to take the matter any further.

• There was a concern that one of the Brethren leaflets had a false address on it. In the overall circumstances of this complaint no further action was required.

• The primary complaint was that leaflets and newspaper articles were distributed in breach of s221 of the Electoral Act. A review of the material by Police indicated that there was insufficient similarity or association between the material and the New Zealand National Party on which to base a charge.

The Chief Electoral Officer referred to Police 10 instances of election advertising involving three separate unions.

No prosecutions will be taken in respect of the publications distributed by the three unions but the Police will be writing to each of these unions informing them of the obligations in the Electoral Act and the potential consequences of not meeting these.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Carson said that recent commentary around the time limits for bringing charges under the Electoral Act was academic in nature.

"The fact is that we have made a decision not to lay charges and the recommendations were made before the time limit expired. Crown Law's involvement in this case has been and continues to be to provide legal advice to assist with the various investigations but decision-making is and has been entirely a matter for Police," said Mr Carson.

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