Cop case closed

SHARE

Queenstown’s top cop has drawn a thin blue line under a bungled court case.

Harsh comments from a district court judge prompted an internal police inquiry into a botched Queenstown drugs case last year.

Charges against two men had to be dropped after a pre-trial hearing last August.

The investigation and evidence in court given by constable Jason Reid came in for particular criticism from judge Bernadette Farnan, who called his actions “reckless” and “woeful”.

In an emailed statement, Otago Central police boss Olaf Jensen confirms Reid has kept his job.

Jensen says the incident’s now been dealt with “in full” after an internal review and an employment investigation.

Reid could have faced a year in prison if it was found his production order application contained “any assertion or other statement known by the person to be false”.

But Jensen says no criminality was identified.

“As this was an employment matter between NZ police and the individual we will not be going into further detail.”

The case prompted a complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority and a strongly-worded letter of criticism from defence lawyer Hugo Young.

Young says he has no instructions to make comment from client Christian Pearce.

The other defence lawyer in the case, Kate McHugh, who represented James Neill, says: “Though I am pleased matters were thoroughly investigated, I can’t comment on the outcome given I haven’t seen that information.”

Police released a redacted copy of its internal report to than a year after it was written – but only after this newspaper complained to the Ombudsman.

The report, submitted to top cops on October 20 last year, was written by experienced Dunedin detective senior sergeant Malcolm Inglis.

Inglis, who now heads the Queenstown CIB, having moved here in September, recommended a code of conduct investigation into Reid’s professionalism and integrity, including record keeping, disclosure, evidence given in court, exhibit handling and his application for a production order.

Inglis criticised Reid’s lax note-keeping, his “vague” court evidence, “very piecemeal” disclosure to the defence team and “discrepancies” with exhibits.

There was a “variance” between a production order and police station property sheets of three grams of cannabis, two pipes and one bong.

Inglis’ report says record keeping of the initial search, at SIT student apartments in July 2014, with constable Zoe Albon, “fell well below the acceptable standard”.

“There is no evidence as to why this search was undertaken, recorded by either constable.”

A production order, obtained by Reid, “certainly does not meet the standards that would normally be required”.

But the report says: “Having read the file and the court transcripts, [Reid] has been careless but does not appear to have deliberately misled the court.”

The report criticises supervision of Reid, suggesting a sergeant be “spoken to”. It also says the case should have been referred “early” to the criminal investigation branch.

There was sufficient evidence to charge Pearce and Neill, Inglis concludes. He also notes the other 10 offenders “all pleaded guilty” and “there is no doubting there was evidence of cannabis dealing”.

The report says police prosecutor sergeant Ian Collin was forced to “bolster the file” with evidence from “some of the procurers of cannabis”.

Jensen says: “I am confident that the incident has not impacted on the day-to-day service or commitment of Queens-town police to the community.”

david@scene.co.nz