Ex-mayor blasts *555 cops

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A former Dunedin mayor is accusing Queenstown police of abusing their *555 roadwatch regime.

Sukhi Turner claims police went out of their way to back a complainant’s unproven allegation that she drove dangerously over the Crown Range Road from Queenstown to her hometown of Wanaka in February.

When the case went to Queenstown’s court last month, neither the police nor the complainant turned up.

Indian-born Sukhi reluctantly took diversion to put the ordeal behind her.

Her husband, former New Zealand cricketing great Glenn Turner, alleges Sukhi “had to endure a drawn-out inconvenient piece of police incompetence that finally led to a no-show on their side”.

“You start to lose faith in the enforcement people if that’s the way they’re going to behave.”

Police say: “The individual in this case accepted responsibility and took diversion.”

Sukhi’s defence statement, which she didn’t have to give in court, says she was stopped by Queenstown senior sergeant Jon Bisset, north of Cardrona, on February 21.

A driver, who’d phoned *555, claimed she repeatedly cross the centre-line.

She says he repeatedly questioned her, despite admitting he had no proof.

“We have to look after our people,” he reportedly told her.

Cop stop: Sukhi Turner

Sukhi – who admitted failing to drive in her lane to get diversion – says she overtook one vehicle on a straight stretch of road.

“He then asked me if I had had a hard day.”

Finally, she says Bisset told her he’d send her a $150 infringement ticket. As he walked off, he said that I had been breaching the centre-line 30 times.

“I was disturbed by his decision and the alacrity at the presumption of guilt.”

Sukhi believes that, beyond checking she hadn’t been drinking, Bisset, under the police’s *555 protocol, should have done no more than issue a warning.

In follow-up disclosure documents, Sukhi says she learnt for the first time that the complainant had contacted cops because her vehicle was allegedly “on wrong side of road going around blind corner”.

An adjudicator in Wellington’s police infringement bureau added the words – “with a vehicle travelling towards you”.

She comments: “The latest accusation is extremely serious, one which I found outrageously unbelievable.”

Sukhi says she’s had a “first-class driving record” during her 43 years in NZ, including nine years driving a Dunedin mayoral vehicle.

During 12 years living in Wanaka, she estimates she’s driven the Crown Range Rd more than 100 times.

“I cannot believe that any policy under the *555 regime would put the fate of a driver in the hands of Joe Public.”

Especially, she says, when that ‘Joe Public’ got so many basic facts wrong:

He said she had two passengers – she had no one;

He said he left Queenstown about 6.30pm, but she was stopped just past Cardrona only 20 minutes later;

He couldn’t recall the colour of her car, beyond saying it was “light”;

He couldn’t recall the model of the car despite “a very large Mazda logo attached to the rear” and having allegedly followed her a long distance.

Glenn adds they’re upset “we went to great lengths to try and get some sense out of the police”, but to no avail.

“It seems that if the officer who books someone wants to proceed with the charge, his so-called superiors automatically go along with his wish.”

Asked to address the Turners’ complaint, Bisset – who recently relocated to Invercargill – yesterday emailed a general statement.

“Police actively encourage people to use the *555 service to report any concerning driver behaviour,” he says.

“Anything which deters drivers from endangering themselves or others is a positive thing.”

Bisset says any complaint is “fully considered” before action is taken.

scoop@scene.co.nz