Sunday, 1 February 2004 - 7:04pm |
National News

Need for clarity around historical allegations and their handling

4 min read

Commissioner Rob Robinson said that following a number of media inquiries during the day he was issuing a clarifying statement around matters relating to stories which ran in the Dominion Post and Television One News on Saturday.

The Commissioner said that with a review of the matters now commencing he was limited in the degree of commentary he could make on specific details relating to the historical sexual allegations made against Police and the resolution of the original complaints. He believed, however, that confusion was arising in the public mind as to the issues that required examination. Police clarification of the issues was hampered by the fact that the media outlets involved had not, despite his invitation last week, tabled specific allegations with Police. In the case of the Dominion Post, the newspaper had indicated that some serialisation of allegations was underway with part two of their investigation to be published tomorrow.

The Commissioner is highly motivated to get access to all the material available and this includes that being held by the media so that appropriate actions can be taken.

The Background facts:
The facts of the situation as verifiable by information available to Police at the present time is as follows:

There were several complaints made by Mrs Louise Nicholas to Police during the 1990s. Two of these were investigated by then Detective Inspector John Dewar. Mr Dewar did not investigate Mrs Nicholas’ complaint against Mr Rickards and other police officers. Mr Miller investigated Mrs Nicholas’ complaint against Mr Rickards and others.

Mr Dewar investigated other complaints from Mrs Nicholas. In one of the matters Mr Dewar investigated a full review of that inquiry was subsequently conducted by Mr Miller initially at the request of the then Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Scott, and at a later time in response to a separate complaint made directly to the PCA.

Mr Miller reported that there was insufficient evidence to support criminal or disciplinary proceedings and recommended no further action be taken.

Mr Miller’s enquiry was reviewed by the PCA who agreed with his findings and referred the matter back to Police.

The Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Bruce Scott, on receipt of this advice, sought further legal advice from the Chief Legal Adviser at Police National Headquarters. The advice tendered was that there was no opportunity from the facts and findings of the enquiry to discipline any officers. Therefore, there was no disciplinary action and consequently no basis that would allow Police management to attach any records of this enquiry to the individual officer’s personal files.

Any attachment of records of the enquiry in which officers had been cleared would have been in breach of standard employment practice and law.

The Region Commander did however, outside any formal disciplinary process, advise the officers that he found aspects of their behaviour with Mrs Nicholas unacceptable.

The current Commissioner, Rob Robinson, who from September 1997 was Regional Commander of the Midland Region, was advised by his predecessor, Assistant Commissioner Scott, of the brief details of the enquiry into Mrs Nicholas’ complaints against Mr Rickards. He researched the matter and understood that this complaint had been fully investigated, reviewed by the PCA and no criminal or disciplinary actions had flowed from it. Mr Robinson sought an explanation from Mr Rickards directly in 1997 at which time Mr Rickards reiterated his rebuttal of the allegations of Mrs Nicholas.

Whilst Government was considering appointments to the statutory Deputy Commissioner positions in the Year 2000, Mr Robinson apprised the State Services Commissioner and the Prime Minister of brief details of the historical allegations against Mr Rickards, their enquiry and resolution. The Commissioner provided this advice because of the very senior nature of the positions which follow a different appointment process to that of all other police appointments. He advised the State Services Commissioner and the Prime Minister of the background matter of which there was public knowledge.

The review initiated this weekend

The Commissioner has directed Deputy Commissioner Long to bring together a group of senior investigators to assemble all the files that are held in relation to complaints made by Mrs Nicholas, the investigations into those complaints and other records relating to people involved in those matters.

Deputy Commissioner Long will be supported by Superintendent Nick Perry, the District Commander of the Southern Police District. Other members of the team are still to be determined.

"The review will be complex as the historical enquiries will be multi-faceted. The first objective is to understand all these complexities and assess them. When the full extent of the allegations is known I will be able to determine whether a new investigation will be launched and investigation undertaken," said Mr Robinson.

Additional material is coming forward that will require consideration and Mr Robinson said that he wanted the media to table all the information they are currently holding to ensure this process is properly informed.

The review will occur under the direction and oversight of the PCA.

The exact nature of Deputy Commissioner Long’s review will be determined early this week in consultation with the PCA. It is possible that the PCA may either direct Mr Long and his investigators to conduct specific enquiries or to conduct the enquiry himself using his own investigators.

If any matter emerges at any stage that warrants the reopening of the criminal investigation that will occur.

Current Employment status of Assistant Commissioner Rickards

Mr Rickards has sought and been granted leave from his command. Command of Auckland City District will be carried by Acting Superintendent Jones in Mr Rickards’ absence.

Mr Rickards is off duty on leave.

If at any stage of the review matters that touch his employment status arise they will be addressed.