Police were wrong not to charge an off-duty cop who used his
baton to bash a youth he thought had smashed his letterbox, a
review has found.
The Christchurch police officer, who has not been named, was
not formally interviewed over the June 2011 incident and no
criminal prosecution was pursued after an internal inquiry.
That was despite the 17-year-old victim's parents telling
police they wanted some action taken against the officer.
Now, an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) review of
the police investigation into the by an off-duty officer has
identified shortcomings on the part of Christchurch Police.
In releasing today's report, IPCA chairman Sir David
Carruthers said despite the serious nature of the off-duty
officer's actions, a criminal prosecution was never
"In investigating the police decision not to prosecute, the
Authority found that the decision not to interview the
officer as part of a criminal investigation was a departure
from the proper process," he said.
"The authority also found that the decision not to prosecute
the off-duty officer because it was not in the public
interest to do so was made without proper consideration of
the prosecution guidelines."
The incident was sparked at around midnight on June 12, 2011
when the off-duty officer heard someone smashing his
letterbox outside his Fendalton home.
He went outside and saw a group of people in his driveway.
The officer went back inside, got dressed, collected his
police baton, and went back outside.
By this time, the group had left the driveway but the officer
could see a group of people nearby, walking away.
The off-duty officer got into his car and after catching up
with the group he approached them on foot asking who had
smashed his letterbox.
When one of the youths, a 17-year-old, told the off-duty
officer he didn't know who was responsible the off-duty
officer hit him multiple times with his baton, the IPCA said.
Later that day, the 17-year-old's mother contacted police to
report the attack.
During the police investigation, the teenager and his parents
Despite wanting to minimise any impact it would have on their
son's schooling, the 17-year-old's parents were insistent
that some action be taken against the officer.
In August 2011, the Professional Standards Manager, who was
also the Employment Practices Manager for Christchurch
Police, submitted a report to the Acting District Commander
recommending that the officer should not be prosecuted as it
would not be in the public interest.
He considered the Solicitor-General's prosecution guidelines
in reaching his decision.
The Acting District Commander approved a recommendation that
it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the
But today, the authority has found that the processes
followed by Christchurch Police in reaching their decision
not to prosecute the off-duty officer involved were unfair.
It further concluded that the decision suggests that the
Professional Standards Manager had "prematurely decided" that
a code of conduct investigation would be a sufficient
The IPCA concluded that any reconsideration of the
prosecution decision at this late stage would be "an abuse of
process given that the officer was informed he would not be
charged prior to engaging in the employment process".
Canterbury District Commander Superintendent Gary Knowles
said he would be offering to meet the victim and his family
to apologise for the way the complaint was handled.
"There is absolutely no question that the actions taken by
the officer against the 17-year old victim were unacceptable.
I also accept that in this case the young man and his family
have been let down by a poor process," he said.
"We have taken careful note of the issues raised by the IPCA
and have made sure these are reflected in improvements to our
processes for dealing with complaints.
"We have already made changes to the way we handle
investigations into officers as a result of this incident.
Mr Knowles said the staff member who undertook the internal
investigation had been spoken to.
"I believe the investigator and the then acting district
commander acted with the best of intentions to ensure the
matter was investigated appropriately.
"I am satisfied there was never any deliberate attempt to
protect the officer or to minimise the seriousness of the
"However the investigator made a judgement call to pursue an
internal investigation rather a criminal prosecution, when a
criminal investigation would have been the correct call.
Mr Knowles said the officer at the centre of the allegations
admitted striking the victim and had been subject to
disciplinary action, but he remained a serving officer.
- Kurt Bayer of APNZ