Queenstown policewoman found guilty

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A Queenstown policewoman accused of racially abusing a taxi driver in the resort last year has been found guilty.

Jeanette May McNee, 44, was found guilty on one charge of offensive language stemming from an incident on November 3.

No conviction has been entered after defence counsel Nic Soper said he would be seeking a discharge without conviction.

Judge Tony Couch remanded her at large until September 23 for a hearing date to be confirmed.

McNee had denied telling Queenstown Taxis driver Ganesh Paramanathan “F… off to India. You come here and get all of the Kiwi jobs; eat your f…… curry and f… off to India. This is a Kiwi job”.

Paramanathan had driven her and a group of associates, including her husband Geoffrey, from Queenstown to Lake Hayes Estate via Quail Rise. 

Yesterday morning Judge Tony Couch questioned Mr McNee, who began his evidence on Monday, about some “obvious inferences”.

During his evidence on Monday, Mr McNee told the court there had been no gesturing from the driver; however, it was clear from photographic evidence that was not the case, the judge said.

He also stated there had been no physical contact between his wife of 10 years and the driver, which video evidence showed.

“That would suggest to me that your memory of those things is seriously flawed, Mr McNee,” Judge Couch said.

“What’s clear from the video is those things are happening right in front of your face, Mr McNee.

“You’re actually between your wife and the driver – it just seems extraordinarily unlikely those things would have happened in front of your face and you wouldn’t have seen them.”

Mr McNee said he was concentrating on paying the driver at the time and not paying attention.

He said he thought the fare was excessive, expecting to pay “around $60”.

Judge Couch questioned if he was aware the fare was $62 – Mr McNee said he had not looked at the metre for the duration of the trip, despite it sitting directly in front of him for the latter part of the journey.

“It seems to me highly irrational you would have thought the fare exessive without seeing the metre?”

Mr McNee responded it was at the end of the night, he was asked for $20 and he “got it out”.

Judge Couch also questioned the reasoning Mr McNee gave for his wife’s attempted apology on the phone to Mr Paramanathan the following day.

Mr McNee told the court it was because her behaviour was “out of character”, eventually admitting his wife was “pissed off”.

“Being out of character wouldn’t mean much to anyone who didn’t know her,” Judge Couch said.

“One inference . . . in the early hours of the morning you were all affected by alcohol and in your wife’s case, by medication that she’d taken, was that a factor in your review of the situation later in the day?”

Mr McNee said his wife wanted to apologise because “she’d been disputing the far more than she thought was acceptable”.

In a statement to police Mr McNee said he “did not realise Tramadol and alcohol was a very bad mix”.

Judge Couch questioned how he came to realise that was the case and Mr McNee said he looked at the package “the next day”.

Other passengers in the taxi that night, Janelle Crosbie, Chrystiane Lozano and Claire Powell, also gave evidence about their concerns over the price of the fare.

Miss Crosbie was the first person dropped off, at Quail Rise, noting it was “quite expensive” at $40 as she never normally paid more than $30.

Mrs Lozano said all of the passengers were “unimpressed with the fare” which she thought was “ridiculous, and I did state that”.

However, Mrs Lozano said in her evidence the price to Lake Hayes Estate would normally cost up to $60.

Judge Couch said he was “puzzled” why Mrs Lozano would regard that as “ridiculous, when you’ve said that the fare could be up to $60 normally”.

“You said it was ridiculous, it was extremely high . . . I just have difficulty accepting that when you’ve said to me that $60 was the upper end of what you would consider normal.”

Miss Powell, who had been unwell earlier in the night, said the group was “merry” but not intoxicated.

At Quail Rise there was a discussion among them about the price of the fare, which continued at Lake Hayes Estate.

McNee’s voice was “raised, but not shouting” when dropping off the Lozanos and she continued questioning the driver on the way to Rere Rd.

Miss Powell said McNee was “not agitated” but questioning the price.

At Rere Rd Miss Powell got out of the taxi, with McNee and her husband moving to the front of the van, Mr McNee inside it and McNee partially outside.

“I just stood there for a little bit and then I started to walk away . . . not very far, about a metre and a-half in front of the van.

“I could hear the voices but not what was being said . . . Jenny’s voice was raised.”

Miss Powell said she didn’t hear McNee make any racist comments.

“[Then] I heard Geoff say ‘Jenny, let’s just go home’ and then I heard the taxi driver, so I turned around.”

At that point the driver was on the road in front of McNee, who was “upset and had a raised voice”.

She recalled the driver mentioning “taking it further”.

After the taxi left the trio went to the McNees’ address.

The following day McNee said she was going to call the driver and apologise for the “way she’d gone off about the price”.

In response to questioning from defence counsel Nic Soper, she said McNee’s behaviour that night was “definitely out of character”.

“I’ve never actually seen her question someone about something like that.”

Prosecutor Glenn Henderson referred to Miss Powell’s statement to police, in which she was asked if she heard the taxi driver say anything about calling the police.

She responded to police “That’s when I think I interpreted it as taking the matter further”.

Mr Soper called two character witnesses before the lunchbreak – Meadow Ridd and Donovan Percy.

Mrs Ridd said she’d known McNee for about nine years and had never seen McNee judge anyone based on “race, religion or ethnicity”, describing her as an “extremely honest person”.

Mr Percy told the court McNee had been a close family friend for two years, describing her as a sincere, open and caring person and found it “very hard to believe” she would make racist comments.