Alleged drug dealers, burglars and drink-drivers have
walked free after a police botch-up led to officers carrying
out illegal investigations.
In a major embarrassment for Police Minister Anne Tolley,
officers returning to the force were incorrectly sworn in,
meaning criminal charges had to be dropped.
It is the third time it has happened. Tolley described the
previous errors as a "monumental cock-up" which forced
Parliament to pass emergency legislation.
Labour police spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said there were
"Ultimately, people who should be accountable before the law
won't be," she said.
Superintendent Richard Chambers said police were
investigating how the error happened, just 10 months after a
similar bungle. He was "very disappointed".
Police discovered on June 9 an officer in Wellington
exercising constabulary powers without the correct
An audit found a second officer in Counties Manukau in April
was also exercising constabulary powers without correct
authorisation. Both have since been resworn.
"As a result, a small number of criminal charges - at this
stage approximately 10 - have been withdrawn by police,"
The charges included possession of cannabis for supply,
selling cannabis, dangerous driving, failure to stop, driving
with excess breath-alcohol, burglary, minor theft and
receiving stolen goods.
Tolley said it was "simply not good enough".
"I'm advised it was human error, and there is no systemic
issue, but the consequences could have been more serious.
Police will need to decide what employment action to take.
This is a basic but important task and police need to get it
right every single time."
Last October, Tolley described a similar error in which 63
officers were unlawfully sworn in as a "monumental cock-up".
Parliament passed a new law under urgency retrospectively
validating the oaths of the 63 who had returned to the force
in the previous four years.
Then-Commissioner Peter Marshall ordered an investigation and
Labour politicians said it had to never happen again. The
same thing had happened in November 2009.
Ardern said they were "silly mistakes that are having serious
consequences". "A minister who has been so firm, you would
have expected her to keep a close eye on how this was
remedied to ensure it didn't happen again ... Three times is
not acceptable and she really should have had closer
The mistakes have been made since changes were made to the
Policing Act in 2008, when oaths sworn by returning officers
had to be administered by the Commissioner of Police or a
person authorised by him instead of by district commanders or
They come weeks after the Herald on Sunday revealed that
Counties Manukau police had altered crime figures to make 700