Friday, 12 November 2004 - 1:01pm |
National News

Police and Ministerial driver charged over motorcade

3 min read

Five police officers and a civilian have been charged with traffic offences relating to the July motorcade conveying the Prime Minister from Waimate to Christchurch.

Six people involved in the motorcade have been charged with driving in a dangerous manner. The two passenger police officers in the motorcade are charged with being parties to the offence of dangerous driving.

Two face additional charges of following too close and one of those drivers has also been charged with careless use of a motor vehicle.

The Assistant Commissioner for Crime Reduction and Public Safety, Peter Marshall, said that the charges followed a very thorough enquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the conduct of the motorcade. Seventeen complainants reported matters to the Police in relation to the motorcade relating to its 96 minute journey.

The Assistant Commissioner said that as the matter was now sub-judice he was limited in his ability to elaborate on the detail of the investigator's report which had been prepared by Inspector Dave Cliff, of the Southern District.

Inspector Cliff had either interviewed or taken statements from 17 civilian witnesses to the driving, 3 direct police witnesses to motorcade driving, 7 indirect police witnesses, 6 passengers and 4 drivers. Consideration had also been given to information provided by three other civilians.

The prosecution case will be based on the assertion that the travel time between the motorcade's departure point in Waimate and the Christchurch airport barrier arm was 96 minutes over a distance of 205.6 km.

Mr Marshall said that the decision to prosecute was his based on the recommendations of Inspector Cliff and taking into account internal legal advice and an opinion from Crown Law.

Inspector Cliff's report also made a number of other recommendations for consideration.

He recommended that the Southern Communications Centre deal with the handling of a witness' *555 call by a communicator as a performance issue. The communicator had incorrectly advised the caller that a complaint around the conduct of the motorcade should be referred to the Department of Internal Affairs.

While responsibility for driving rests with the individual drivers the report suggests that amendments should be made to the Police Manual of Best Practice along with subordinate Standard Operating Procedures of the Diplomatic Protection Squad to specify that:

• Motorcades will not exceed speed limits unless there is an imminent threat to the VIP and only for the purpose of transporting the VIP to the nearest safe location.

• To validate the practice of a security car following a VIP car at reduced following distance, a regulatory exemption will be required. It is not recommended that such an exemption be permitted at higher speeds (e.g. over 70 km/hour). The risk of an injury collision associated with this practice at higher speeds, in the view of the investigator, outweighs the perceived benefits. It is recommended that more analysis on this issue be directed and consideration given to replacing unmarked security cars with marked vehicles displaying variable message signs.

It was noted that the Police Driving Policy: Urgent Duty Driving (Policy 2004/02) is currently inconsistent with the legislative defences for members of Police exceeding the speed limit. Work will now be carried out to undertake a more detailed assessment of the validity of the policy and for recommendations to be made to the Commissioner of Police for any policy amendments.

District Commanders are currently required to ensure that the security car drivers are correctly trained and current in those duties. One of the drivers was not trained. District Commanders will be reminded of the necessity for districts to comply with this instruction.

The investigation found that the Wellington based motorcades involving the carriage of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were well run and no further investigation or action is required.