The Independent Police Conduct Authority has confirmed it
is evaluating complaints about the police decision not to
pursue electoral fraud charges against Act MP John Banks, and
may launch a formal investigation.
That confirmation has come as Labour calls for a high level
independent inquiry into recent police investigations into
recent politically charged cases, including that against Mr
Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) spokesman Warren
Young this afternoon confirmed the authority received
complaints earlier this year about the police decision not
pursue charges against Banks. Police said they found
insufficient evidence that Banks knowingly submitted a false
electoral return during his 2010 Auckland mayoralty bid.
They found evidence to support a lesser charge of filing a
false return but the window of opportunity to pursue that
charge had already expired.
Mr Young said the authority had decided to "keep a watching
brief" on the John Banks case, and "reconsider the matter
after the verdict".
Mr Banks was found guilty in the High Court at Auckland last
week of knowingly submitting a false return after Crown Law
took over a private prosecution by retired Wellington
accountant Graham McCready.
"We will now set about reconsidering what action if any we
should take, but it's far too early to indicate what we what
might determine in that regard so we've really got no further
comment at this stage", Mr Young told the Herald.
He indicated the IPCA would focus on the John Banks case
rather than taking a look at wider issues around police
decisions about electoral and politically charged
Labour's justice spokesman Andrew Little said the Banks case
raised wider questions about police decisions on politically
"During the procedural wrangling after the private
prosecution (against Banks) was launched, every other judge
that looked at the initial information found there was a case
to answer, but the police and their Crown Law advisers
But a spokeswoman for Crown Law said Crown Law was never
consulted by police on the decision not to prosecute.
"Neither Crown Law nor the Solicitor-General were asked for
advice by the Police in relation to this matter."
Nevertheless, Mr Little asked: "Did the fact that the police
and other state agencies were heavily engaged in the arrest
of Kim Dotcom on behalf of US authorities consciously or
unconsciously affect the decision to not prosecute John
He also pointed to the complaint about freelance cameraman
Bradley Ambrose Prime Minister John Key made to police at the
last election over the so called "teapot tapes" affair.
"That complaint was investigated with urgency by the police,
search warrants were executed against various media outlets
and considerable pressure was put on Mr Ambrose. He later
apologised to the Prime Minister and John Banks before being
given a warning by the police.
"This was a highly political complaint that looked more like
damage-control of a public political stunt which the Prime
Minister lost control of. It should never have been
entertained by the police from the outset."
Mr Little said it was in the interest of public confidence
that the integrity of New Zealand's electoral system was
"Those charged with upholding that integrity must hold
politicians and others to the highest standards and show they
are truly independent of ministers."
That required "a high-powered inquiry independent of any
other government agency" to look into recent investigations
and prosecutions into allegations in the political arena,
including the John Banks case.
"New Zealanders are entitled to be assured about the
decision-making processes that went into the original
decision not to prosecute John Banks, and the inquiry could
also look at whether we need an independent agency devoted to
dealing with allegations of electoral malpractice and
Mr Little today confirmed he was talking about a wide ranging
anti-corruption unit dealing with issues beyond electoral
"(Justice Minister) Judith Collins said at the end of last
year that the Government was going to ratify the UN
Convention Against Corruption and it hasn't happened. One of
requirements of the convention is a stand-alone agency
dealing with corruption.
"At the moment all our anti-corruption efforts are spread
across the Serious Fraud Office, police and various others."
Mr Little also believed consideration should be given to
having the Electoral Commission investigate and prosecute
electoral irregularities. At present they did initial
evaluations and then referred matters to police for further
investigation and prosecution.
"Maybe it should all go back into the Electoral Commission
because they are used to dealing with the electoral system
and the players in it."
Mr Little's call comes after his Labour colleague Trevor
Mallard, who was one of those who pushed for a police
investigation into Banks' 2010 Auckland Mayoral campaign
finances, last week also raised questions over the original
police decision not to prosecute.
Self-styled justice campaigners Penny Bright and Joe Karam
have also called for establishment of an independent
anti-corruption unit, modelled on that in New South Wales.