Judge ‘troubled’ by prosecution of officer, but police defend decision

A judge has launched a scathing attack on the police’s decision to prosecute one of their own after the man was acquitted of domestic violence.

Judge Kevin Phillips also found the high-ranking officer not guilty on a charge of possessing a firearm without a licence when he gave his verdicts yesterday following a two-day judge-alone trial at the Dunedin District Court.

The judge granted permanent name suppression and criticised the decision to bring the case to court.

"I have to say I wonder whether if he was not a police officer there would've been this reaction and this prosecution would've continued," he said.

"I'm troubled about that."

While police accepted the judge’s decision, they hit back in a response through a spokeswoman.

"Police's role is to uphold the law, and where appropriate to put forward matters to be tested in court, which we have done so in this case."

While the defendant said outside court he was "relieved" with the outcome, he may not emerge unscathed.

Police confirmed there was an ongoing employment investigation into the incident.

Early on December 21, the defendant arrived home after a night out drinking with colleagues to find his partner intoxicated.

Her alcoholism, he told the court, had become a long-standing problem in their relationship.

What happened next was the subject of much scrutiny at trial.

The complainant said her partner launched into an aggressive verbal tirade, moved furniture aside and challenged her to a fight.

At trial she recalled slapping the man, then claimed to have blacked out.

Her next memory was of speaking to a police officer in the kitchen of her home.

The swelling to her eye and lip was caused by her partner punching her, the complainant said.

However, she repeatedly told people in the days following that no such assault had occurred.

"Her evidence can only be described as unreliable," Judge Phillips said.

Her allegation her partner was the aggressor was contradicted by video taken by the defendant showing the woman ranting and making wild sexual allegations, the judge said.

The senior police officer at the centre of the case gave a contrasting version of events.

When the argument became heated, he crouched and covered himself as the woman beat him over the head with her fists, he said.

He told her their relationship was over and that they would share custody of their children, he told the court.

The man said he believed it was simply police being "over cautious" dealing with one of their own when they took him to the station.

A .22 rifle locked in a cupboard, which belonged to the defendant’s father, was accessible to the defendant, Judge Phillips said, but there was no proof of an intention to exercise control over the firearm.

The judge congratulated the man on how he had handled the trial.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

 

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