Hansard and Journals
Appointments — Deputy Police Complaints Authority
Deputy Police Complaints Authority
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Justice) : I move, That, pursuant to section 8 of the Police Complaints Authority Act 1988, this House recommend His Excellency the Governor-General appoint Judge Michael Henry Walkinton Lance, acting District Court Judge of Wellington, as deputy to the Police Complaints Authority for a term of one year commencing on the date of appointment. The Police Complaints Authority Act 1988 provides for the appointment of a Deputy Police Complaints Authority, who, subject to the control of the authority, has all the powers, duties, and functions of the authority. A Deputy Police Complaints Authority was appointed in June 2005 for a 2-year term, but unfortunately was unable to complete the term, due to ill health. The appointment is in effect, therefore, to fill a vacancy.
Appointment is by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of this House of Representatives. The leaders of all political parties represented in the House have been consulted in writing about the proposed appointment, and I am pleased to advise the House that all have indicated their parties’ support for the nominee. I think, given the announcements earlier today and the pivotal role that the Police Complaints Authority will play in future, the full support of the Parliament is particularly helpful for this important appointment.
The Act requires that the deputy authority is a qualified barrister and solicitor of the High Court, and possesses suitable legal experience for the task. Because of the considerable responsibilities vested in the position and because of the high public profile of the office, the general practice has been to select both the authority and the deputy authority from nominations supplied by the heads of bench. Nominations for this appointment were sought from the Chief District Court Judge. The nominated appointee, Judge Lance, gained a Bachelor of Laws from Victoria University back in 1960, and was admitted to the Bar in 1961. His career from 1961 to 1983 was in private practice in the good town of Wanganui, with Treadwell Gordon and Co., specialising in criminal, civil, domestic, and tribunal work. During that time he was a member of the Wanganui District Law Society and served as a member and chairman of the central districts disciplinary tribunal. From 1983 to 1990 he practised as a barrister sole, specialising in criminal work and, particularly, jury trials. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1988. He was appointed a District Court judge in 1990, sitting mainly in the criminal jurisdiction and jury trials. He is currently responsible for administering jury trials in the northern region.
Both Justice Goddard, the Police Complaints Authority, and the Chief Justice attest to Judge Lance’s skills as a jurist and as an administrator, and recommend him as a sound appointment choice. The authority has made excellent progress this year in reducing the number of older complaints on file, and, given, again, the report that we debated in this House a little earlier today, it is particularly pleasing to be able to report on the addressing of those older files and the backlog, because that is indeed one of the recommendations that Dame Margaret Bazley’s report gave to the House. For example, at the end of the last financial year the authority had 219 complaint files that had first been opened in 2003-04. This number has now been reduced to 68.
The previous backlog of complaints had developed as a result of increasing complaint numbers over the years. The authority received additional funding of $550,000 in Budget 2006 to help address this backlog. Some older complaints may remain on file, due to the need for the authority to defer completion until after other proceedings relevant to the complaint have ended. That will always be a challenge in terms of some of the cases before the authority. It would not be appropriate for the authority to pre-empt or prejudice any prosecuting decisions and/or criminal, civil, or disciplinary proceedings that may result from the consideration of the issues by the bodies set up for those purposes—that is, of course, the courts, the coroner, the police, and so on. The authority has opened 943 new complaint files since the start of the current financial year. The total number of complaints on file has reduced from 1,767 at the end of June 2006 to 1,650 currently.
The authority is the most independent of all the independent Crown entities. Appointments and removals can be made only on the recommendation of the House, not a Minister. The current Police Complaints Authority, Justice Lowell Goddard, is a High Court judge with a very good reputation within judicial and wider legal circles, and I think that was attested to by members of the House in the earlier debate. The appointment of a Deputy Police Complaints Authority and the proposal in the Independent Police Complaints Amendment Bill to expand the authority will increase the capacity of the authority to deal with complaints and will enhance its independence. The increase in membership will also mean that the authority will be more representative of different parts of the community.
I should perhaps comment at this point that the duration of this appointment—1 year—has been raised with me, and I want to put on record that this simply reflects the uncertainty of what recommendations the House might be asked to consider by the report into police conduct that we have now received. It was deemed appropriate to keep options open, in order to be able to be responsive to that. But, as it is currently positioned, the deputy authority would indeed assume and continue on under the new bill.
The Gallen review recommended that the authority have an investigative capacity of its own, independent of the police, and that was implemented in 2003. The authority now has a team of four investigators, headed by a manager of investigations. None of the investigators are sworn members of the police. The team includes former senior officers from overseas police forces. The team primarily deals with the most serious complaints and incidents, such as where death or serious injury occurs as a result of police actions. The role and processes of the team are continually developing.
The Government will act on all of the recommendations in the report that was tabled in this House today. I think it is important that we affirm the role of the Police Complaints Authority, and recognise that this proposed appointment will strengthen the capability of the authority in ensuring that, indeed, those recommendations can be quickly and thoroughly acted upon. I have pleasure in recommending this nomination to the House for recommendation to the Governor-General.
It is worth making one or two preliminary points about the suggested appointment. Firstly, can I say formally that the National Party in Opposition is extremely pleased with the appointment of Justice Lowell Goddard. It seems, from her early comments and her two appearances before the Law and Order Committee, that she is someone of some considerable substance and weight who will do an extremely good and fearless job in dealing with matters surrounding the police and any complaints that make it to the Police Complaints Authority.
Could I also say that we had a wide discussion in caucus today about the appointment of Judge Michael Lance, and the caucus unanimously endorses his appointment to become the deputy authority. National believes that Judge Lance, serving alongside Justice Lowell Goddard, will strengthen an authority that, to be fair, until this point has seemed to be perhaps a little lacking in teeth and a little lacking in the processes to be able to take action in a strong way.
We will watch with interest the Government’s proposals surrounding the strengthening of the Police Complaints Authority, both by way of legislation and by way of direction following Dame Margaret Bazley’s report today. That is very important to members on this side of the House, and I acknowledge the Minister Mark Burton for making a statement in a similar vein this evening.
So what will Judge Lance bring to the authority? He will bring three qualities that he has shown in various judgments and public utterances over recent years. The first is that he is unafraid, and this is an important quality for someone on the deputy authority to have—that is, for the deputy authority to have; it is difficult to get my head round the fact that the authority is actually a person, and to use that sort of language. In March 2004 it was Judge Lance who presided over the third trial handling the Louise Nicholas rape case, and, of course, it was he who ordered police to pay $20,000 in costs in respect of that case, thus indicating that he is unafraid to pursue justice no matter who appears before him.
Secondly, the judge is concerned that justice be transparent. So he is unafraid, and he is concerned that justice be transparent. It was this judge who in September 2001 said in public court, in the Auckland District Court, that he was putting his criticisms of under-resourced courts on the public record so that people could “understand that it is not me, not the judges, who cause these delays.” We are all aware of the maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. The judge has, in a very forthright manner, voiced his concerns about transparency and justice.
The third quality that Judge Michael Lance—QC, I should say—brings to the role of deputy authority is that he is practical. The House should be reminded that it was Judge Michael Lance QC who gave Mark Middleton a 9-month suspended sentence for threatening to kill Karla Cardno’s murderer. So he brings those three qualities to the Police Complaints Authority, where he will be under the strong leadership of Justice Lowell Goddard.
Hopefully, there will be a speedy resolution of the issue of the legislative framework that the authority is required to work under, as well as of the need for a well-resourced authority. I note the Government’s announcement that the Budget will make provision for some short-term resource in that regard, particularly as Justice Goddard made the point to the Law and Order Committee last week that she sees extra resourcing as being an essential component of the Police Complaints Authority’s ability to do its own investigation into Operation Austin.
Hon Mark Burton: That was this year’s appropriation, which I have already approved.
SIMON POWER: That is right; Justice Goddard made that point clear to the Law and Order Committee last week.
It is also clear that Justice Goddard is determined that the authority will dispense with what I believe she described as lower-level complaints, and use the teeth of the authority to deal with more substantive and significant issues, thereby, I believe, raising the level of credibility that the authority has in the eyes of the public.
Of course, for some time there has been concern that the authority lacks the real and legislative independence that the public would prefer it to have in order for it to do a completely independent job. The way that the complaints are processed is not always clear to the public, and it is a complicated and lengthy process that ensues. We will wait to see, with some interest, how the legislative proposals of the Government take form. Although the National Party will not commit to supporting those proposals until we have seen them in detail, the Government can be assured that an increased strength and an increased independence of the Police Complaints Authority is very important to the main Opposition party in this Parliament.
It is with that in mind that I re-emphasise this party’s acknowledgment of the work Justice Goddard has done already, and also pledge National’s support for the Government’s recommendation to the Governor-General for the appointment of Judge Michael Lance QC as the deputy authority.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Kia ora, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou katoa. There are a couple of reasons why the Māori Party would support the nomination of Judge Michael Lance. Firstly, I believe that he is married to a woman of Te Arawa descent, and that in itself is a very good recommendation. Secondly, my colleague Tariana Turia says that the judge was born in Wanganui, so she reckons he is pretty good on that account. Neither of those reasons, of course, is enough to endorse his appointment by itself, so it is best that we take a closer look at some of the judgments at key points in time involving the judge.
The first is the case that was talked about by Simon Power, when in February 2001 Judge Lance presided over the conviction of Mark Middleton. Middleton, as most of us know, faced a jail sentence for threatening to kill Paul Dally, the killer of Middleton’s stepdaughter, Karla Cardno. Rather than imposing a 9-month jail sentence, Judge Michael Lance QC issued a suspended sentence for 2 years, but with harsh warning words to the nation that “there is no room whatsoever for vigilante justice and a lynch mob approach is quite unacceptable.” Although the judge recognised the impact of the brutal murder, he called on the court to exercise its residual discretion of mercy. The compassion and humanity shown in that judgment, coupled with a challenge as to the acceptable and appropriate means of being able to address injustice, are qualities that I hope will be transferable to the new role of Deputy Police Complaints Authority.
The second case is one where Judge Lance came to have a public profile when he made history by being the first judge to exercise his legal right to sue the media for unfounded public criticism. Ironically, the comments had been made by Radio Pacific talkback host Mark Bennett, and they related to the same case around Mark Middleton. Bennett described the judge as pigheaded, arrogant, idiotic, overbearing, spitting on justice, and reducing the judicial system to a laughing stock—all because he had jailed Middleton while he was on remand. As I understand it, Judge Lance had had enough of all the attacks and continuing defamation, so he took the radio station to court. In doing so, the judge’s case became precedent setting. It set a benchmark for the quality of reporting that would see abusive tirades result in rebuke. Bennett was instructed to make an on-air retraction and apology for his “extreme, unnecessary personalised criticism and vitriol”, which was “over the top”.
So here we have in Judge Lance a man who is prepared to exercise compassion while also challenging acceptable boundaries, a man who is prepared to break tradition and take on the media, and a man who, when questioned, still upheld decent moral standards that prevented him from commenting in a like manner to the tirade of abuse he had experienced. Such a man will be greatly welcomed in the role of Deputy Police Complaints Authority. I say also that never has there been a more desperate need for people of integrity and independence, and for influential experts, to be in place in order to improve public confidence in the commission—confidence in the police and in the Police Complaints Authority.
The Māori Party has supported both this appointment and that of Justice Lowell Goddard QC as the Police Complaints Authority. We do so, however, only as an interim stopgap measure, as our preference has always been that there be an independent Police Complaints Authority—as mentioned, again, by Simon Power. We have made that call based on the conclusions of the study Māori, which reported a very strong perception from Māori that the Police Complaints Authority would be self-protecting and biased in favour of the police, should Māori bring a complaint against the institution or individuals within it. Even the previous Minister of Justice was aware of the desperate need for independence, in that when he released the review of the Police Complaints Authority, he said at the time: “There is a strong public view that police investigation of complaints against themselves is neither independent or appropriate”, and as such “it is critical that there is full public confidence that such investigations are independent.”
So I believe that the events of the last few months have engendered little confidence or trust in NgaPirihimana o Aotearoa nei. The UMR research released last month described the common goals for the police as to be ethical, professional, well respected, and effective. The survey also had as one of its key findings that that was more likely to be achieved if the police were representative of, and sensitive to, New Zealand’s multicultural make-up. Why is that necessary? Well, that same research reported that higher perceptions of levels of victimisation from crime and lower levels of responsiveness from the police were reported by Māori, Pasifika, youth, new migrants, 18 to 25-year-olds, and those living in Auckland. Well, I think that would take care of about 90 percent of the survey group.
What did the survey conclude that future policing in New Zealand should rely on? Three key points, I think, need to be considered in the likely work programme that will come before the Police Complaints Authority. The three unique aspects of policing in New Zealand identified in the survey were, first, our multicultural makeup as a nation, second, our small size and therefore our close connections, and, third, the fact that police officers do not normally carry guns. New Zealanders like those things about our police, and in the current context where there is so little that the general public do like about the police, one could think this country would be doing everything it could to preserve their reputation. Unfortunately, however, the police had to go ahead and place a lethal weapon in the hands of ordinary cops: the taser gun. And what do tasers do? They encourage a culture of violence in policing—and with every new weapon, the number of violent options available to the police now increases.
As with other comparable data about ethnic targeting, the taser is more likely to disproportionately affect Māori. In the United States, black Americans are tasered more than twice as much as white people. In Aotearoa the same pattern is apparent with regard to pepper spray—55 percent of pepper spray victims in 2005 were Māori. The Māori Party has been so concerned about the impact of tasers, and in particular their likely adverse impacts on Māori, that it has laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, and it is currently in progress. Although our case will be heard in mediation, there is one anomaly that I believe is interesting in the light of the Police Complaints Authority. The response to our complaint about the taser gun stated that racial profiling and racially motivated policing cannot be attributed to the police in the New Zealand environment. Yet the national manager for Māori Pacific ethnic services, Superintendent Wallace Haumaha, has said quite clearly that this country also fits into the pattern of indigenous peoples being overrepresented in the criminal justice system.
And so we come back to the one key question that Justice Lowell Goddard and Judge Lance will need to consider with regard to every complaint that comes before them. Why is it that when Māori are surveyed about their perceptions of the police, when the general public are surveyed about their views of the police, and when the Māori national manager is asked about his view of Māori overrepresentation in the system of injustice, their answers are almost identical? There is a perception that acts against the interests of Māori in any interactions with the police. And conversely, why is it that such strong perceptions about the police are generally denied from within the force itself? We know that police projects involving partnerships with iwi are around, we know that there are almost 50 Pasifika, iwi, and ethnic liaison officers in the police, we know that cultural training is a core part of the recruits’ training course. But as I said at the Police College yesterday in honouring my relation Mita Mohi—who had a new intake of police recruits named after him—in taking up Mita’s name the police must accept some responsibilities. Furthermore, I say iwi agreements like that in Te Aroha amount to nothing if we cannot witness a discernable change in attitude.
So the Māori Party supports the appointment of Judge Lance to the role of Deputy Police Complaints Authority, and we trust that he and Justice Goddard will make an impressive team. But we cannot, and will not, resile from the course of action that whānau, hapū and iwi have long believed in, which is that change will not happen for Māori in relation to the police until the authority exists as a truly independent body. As long as the complaints process is internal, and as long as the State remains judge and jury of its own action, justice will never be seen to be done. Finally, I end with an acknowledgment of a comment that is frequently used in this House, a comment that takes its source in Lord Hewart from Rex in 1924, which says: “It is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance, that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.” That is what we all hope will be visible with the new Police Complaints Authority.
NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) : I rise on behalf of the Green Party to, like other members, support the appointment of Judge Lance as Deputy Police Complaints Authority. Members have spoken about the many reasons Judge Lance makes a very good appointee. Unlike some members, such as Mr Borrows, I am not a lawyer and do not hobnob with judges. I do not know them all by first name or know all their histories. So, like some other members, I had to google. What I found on the public record was an impressive account of independent thought and forthrightness, qualities which other members have referred to in relation to Judge Lance. So the Green Party is very happy to endorse this appointment.
I have to ask, though, what Police Complaints Authority we are appointing him to. Because, as members know, this House has been waiting for some time for the progression of the Independent Police Complaints Authority Amendment Bill. The Government said it was waiting for Dame Margaret Bazley’s report on police conduct before progressing this bill. Other members and I have had occasion to ask, given that the report has been so delayed, whether it would not have been better to just go ahead and progress the bill, then review it after the report was finished.
Well, now the report is finished, and it is a very good and important piece of work, as well. I think it is now time for us to start asking the Government when we are going to see the Independent Police Complaints Authority Amendment Bill actually progress through the House.
I raise the issue because it is important to reflect on what job Judge Lance is being appointed to, a Police Complaints Authority or an Independent Police Complaints Authority, and whether we are talking about independence in name or in practice. The Minister Mark Burton repeated the assertion that the fact that appointments to the authority are made by the Governor-General on a recommendation of the House of Representatives reflects the constitutional importance of the role and the need to emphasise the independence of the role.
But, of course, as with so much of the Police Complaints Authority, there is a danger that we swap the appearance of independence for the reality. I think it is worth reflecting on whether it is the appointment process or the capacity to actually do independent investigations that is important. It is pretty clear that the Police Complaints Authority has been severely hampered by the inability to do practically any kind of independent investigation until quite recently. That is why the Green Party has welcomed the Government adding additional resource to the authority to allow some independent investigation to be conducted.
In that context we welcome Judge Lance’s appointment as deputy authority, in the hope that the Police Complaints Authority is able to demonstrate a more genuine independence. As I say, members have already referred to Judge Lance’s history in demonstrating independence.
During his speech the Minister Mark Burton referred to the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct. I would like to touch on a couple of things in the report that are relevant to this appointment, to the context of this Parliament, and to the wishes of this Parliament. I think I am reflecting the views of other members fairly when I say the desire of this Parliament is to see a Police Complaints Authority that is willing to bare its teeth when necessary when it comes to investigating and holding the police to account.
As a minor example, one of the things that is highlighted in this inquiry report is the statutory requirement for the police to notify the authority of any complaint received from a member of the public as soon as practicable, or, if the complaint is of a serious nature, as soon as possible. The reports states: “… I would consider that it would be appropriate for the PCA to be notified within one week …”. Over the page—on page 178—we find a list of a whole range of complaints that were notified to the authority well after the fact. The report states: “Of particular concern to me was the number of complaints that were notified to the PCA after 30 days. In the worst instance it took the police 518 days to notify the PCA of a complaint,”—when the police have a statutory obligation to notify as soon as practicable—“and this notification occurred only after the complainant had made a third complaint about the same officer.”
In another instance the Police Complaints Authority was not notified of a complaint until after the police investigation had been completed. The interesting thing is that far from complaining, the counsel for the Police Complaints Authority said: “nothing turns on the point in this case, because in any event, even if notification had been promptly given … the PCA … with its usual and necessary practice would inevitably have deferred any action on the file until the Police investigation … was complete.” So the counsel said that it did not matter that the authority was not told until after the investigation had been completed, because it would not have made any difference, anyway.
That demonstrates the absolute inadequacy we have had from the Police Complaints Authority. I do not entirely blame the members, because there have been resourcing issues, but some of it does come down to the need to have a Police Complaints Authority that is willing to bare its teeth and hold the police to account. I certainly hope, along with other members, that the new team of Justice Goddard and Judge Lance will demonstrate that willingness.
The other thing I want to touch on in regard to this inquiry report are the changes to the Police Complaints Authority proposed by the police. Given that we are looking at an Independent Police Complaints Authority Amendment Bill—which is stuck somewhere in the depths of the labyrinthine processes of this Parliament—it is interesting that the police themselves proposed to this inquiry that primary responsibility for resolution of serious complaints should shift from the New Zealand Police to the Police Complaints Authority. The police envisage the Police Complaints Authority assuming oversight of the investigation of less serious complaints and conducting many more investigations in its own right.
The police have also proposed to remove the secrecy provisions to allow the Police Complaints Authority to take a significantly greater role in the investigation of complaints against members of the police. At the moment investigations by the Police Complaints Authority are hampered by the fact that anything it finds cannot be used in any criminal or disciplinary proceeding. That means that if a serious complaint is made, the Police Complaints Authority backs off until the investigation is completed so that it does not interfere or contaminate the evidence. Although the authority has said that that is OK because the more serious a complaint is the more review and oversight it will give it, the reality is that the more serious a complaint is the less oversight there is, because there is more need for the authority to back away from any involvement in the case. The police themselves are suggesting that those secrecy provisions be done away with, and this is something that the Green Party has raised on numerous occasions, as well. It just seems incredible that there is this secrecy provision, so that either investigations are doubled up—which they are—or the Police Complaints Authority backs away from any oversight of those investigations.
Interestingly, the Police Complaints Authority has opposed those changes—or, at least, it did when this report was being written—as did the New Zealand Police Association. The Police Association said that the Police Complaints Authority “acts effectively as a ‘review authority’ or an ‘appeal authority’ “, and that the suggestion being put forward by the police was being opposed because of “resourcing and the effective removal of the PCA’s appellate and review functions vis-à-vis the Police.” Again, I question whether we want another appeal or review process. I think we really want a credible first-complaint investigation. Actually having the first investigation carried out independently and credibly by an independent authority will ensure that investigations are properly done—not having an appeal process and oversight at second or third hand.
The very last point I would make is in regard to concerns about resourcing. In regard to the issues that would raise, the Green Party has proposed on numerous occasions to join the Police Complaints Authority with an independent prison inspectorate, to allow the development of an investigative capacity across those two bodies, and also to allow the Police Complaints Authority not just to investigate complaints reactively but to proactively identify potential areas of systemic abuse and corruption and investigate them.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) : I rise to add my voice to endorse Judge Michael Lance as the Deputy Police Complaints Authority. As others have done, I have researched the pedigree, done the google, and made a couple of phone calls, as old investigators tend to do, and I find that Judge Lance was raised in Waverley, later practised law in Wanganui, and was a partner at Treadwell Gordon and Co. As a criminal lawyer working in and around Wanganui and South Taranaki he was somebody who was held in very high regard in respect of his presence in the courtroom and his ability to cut to the chase in respect of criminal trials. He also had a broad experience not only in criminal trials but also in courts martial.
Later on, when he left Treadwell Gordon he became a barrister, then a Queen’s Counsel, and was later appointed as a District Court judge. He was the executive judge, criminal trials. I think it is incredibly important when we are looking at a Deputy Police Complaints Authority that he has a knowledge of the criminal law and brings that expertise with him. For instance, we have had some high-profile Police Complaints Authority investigations in the past. If there were another incident such as that which occurred at Waitara some time ago, or if there were some other police shooting somewhere, Judge Lance would be in a position to jump straight in and fully investigate such an incident, and would be seen to be completely independent in doing so.
I think that on today of all days, what the public are calling for from the Police Complaints Authority is fierce independence. As I mentioned earlier today, the New Zealand Police is one organisation in which all of New Zealand must have complete faith, so restoring that faith is significant.
As has been mentioned, Judge Lance sat on the third trial in the Louise Nicholas rape complaint against three police officers and he made some very telling comments in respect of the way in which the police handled initial complaints, principally Detective Inspector John Dewar, and I want to read out one small portion of what he said: “ ‘I am of the view the failure to record and detail these allegations was not only remarkable, it was utterly incredible,’ Judge Lance said in his decision granting costs against the police. ‘After all, here was an experienced detective inspector investigating allegations of serious sexual offending. During his interview with the complainant, he is told of allegations of potentially serious sexual offending by three other named and current serving police officers. Such disclosures should have triggered alarm bells that would have permanently silenced Big Ben, no matter how vague in terms of time and event.’ ”
So the judge has made it quite plain, not only in awarding $20,000 court costs in that instance, but also on a number of other occasions when he granted stays of prosecution because of a lack of police adherence to police policy, that he is prepared to take hard decisions, prepared to carry the flack for those, and will remain fiercely independent as the Deputy Police Complaints Authority. I believe he will add to the mana of the office of the principal Police Complaints Authority, Judge Goddard, and I look forward to the confidence they will be able to give the New Zealand public in their roles with the Police Complaints Authority. Thank you.
RON MARK (NZ First) : I rise to take a brief call on behalf of New Zealand First to endorse, as all other previous speakers have, the appointment of Judge Michael Henry Walkinton Lance as deputy to the Police Complaints Authority. We note that the appointment is only for a 1-year term. Although explanations have been given for that, our view in New Zealand First of the Police Complaints Authority office is that it is seriously under-resourced, it is seriously under-staffed, and it does not have the investigative capabilities that are required to give confidence to the investigations and the reviews that it conducts. In time—in fact, in a short time—we would see a distinct need to go with and even be bolder than the recommendations of Justice Goddard in the strengthening and boosting of the Police Complaints Authority, and in having the appointment of such people as Judge Michael Lance on a longer-term basis.
I will just cover a couple of things. The honourable member Nandor Tanczos has espoused the Greens’ position in respect of the Police Complaints Authority quite well—in fact, I heard a good lump of it while I was at my desk. I say that New Zealand First does not just support that view but endorses it, and it would go further.
With the release of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct today—and I gather that many members of this House will still be wading their way through that document—most of us have read the executive summary and the recommendations, in particular the 12 recommendations that pertain to the Police Complaints Authority, and most of us would endorse those. New Zealand First is of the view that given the seriousness of these allegations, and the serious degradation of police standards during a particular era that will forever be a blot on the history of this nation in terms of law enforcement, there is a need to go further than has been recommended.
I can say to the House that in some discussions held already via the select committee process, we have had the opportunity to talk with Justice Goddard and to test the views of members of Parliament as to the possibility of making the office of the Police Complaints Authority into a commission, affording it the status of an Office of Parliament, and making the appointment of Commissioner for the Police Complaints Authority an Officer of Parliament. The reason we have come to this conclusion is that there is nothing more valuable in the maintenance of law and order, and of a civil society, than a completely reliable, corruption-free, law enforcement arm—that is, the police.
The powers of the police, the judiciary, and Parliament are all separated for very good reasons. That separation of powers gives us the democracy and the freedom that we enjoy as a nation and as citizens of this nation. But, of course, if one of those pillars of our society is undermined in any way, or if the public should lose confidence in one of those pillars, then we run the serious risk of degrading the quality of our democracy and thereby undermining those things that are fundamental to our having a civil society. When we degrade the institutions to that stage, we can hardly be surprised when we find we have anarchy, lawlessness, and vigilantes operating freely on our streets. That is something that no one wants. The guarantee that citizens will not take the law into their own hands and that citizens will trust in the system comes from the confidence that they have in that system and in all the processes and procedures by which they might see citizens prosecuted or their wrongs redressed.
It seems to us in New Zealand First that we need to give the office of the Police Complaints Authority a higher level of status. We need to give it a higher level of authority. We need to make it absolutely, patently clear that it is an autonomous body, that it stands alone, and that it is answerable to nobody—specifically, not to the Ministry of Justice and, in particular, not to the police. It is most important that justice not only be done but also that it be seen to be done, and the New Zealand nature would require that it is seen to be done fairly and honestly.
We hate to say it, but this report, we believe, gives us a new opportunity to review the current systems and structures we have, and to ask ourselves a simple question: is this as good as it could be, or should be? We would ask the House and the parties present here today to consider our suggestion. I most definitely have listened on a number of occasions to the suggestion from Nandor Tanczos and the Green Party about combining the prison inspectorate and the Police Complaints Authority into one body. We would say that the Police Complaints Authority needs to be an Office of Parliament, it needs to be answerable to Parliament only, it needs to be resourced, and it needs to have the investigative capacity to be able to take inquiries or complaints from a first-principles basis—that is, not simply from a basis of reviewing an investigation done by the police into themselves but from a basis of examining the quality of the investigation under review and of determining whether they see the need to go back to first principles and reinvestigate the entire case.
I can also say that this is not a request we make purely on the basis of what is contained in this report in respect of the totally unacceptable conduct of certain police officers around this country over the last 20-odd years. Our position also comes about as a result of our concern over the way in which police officers are disciplined. It is interesting to again note the comments and recommendations from Dame Margaret Bazley as to how the disciplinary procedures and methods operating within the police force have become archaic and outdated, and need restructuring.
It seems to me that this is borne out when I look at a couple of cases in particular that I know have been before the Police Complaints Authority. One of those cases, which involves a police officer down in Christchurch, is still before the authority. The police officer in question has been suspended for coming up to 3 years, despite his assertions that he was innocent of the charges brought against him by the police, and despite the fact that he ended up in court, and that Judge Erber threw the case out and then set about lambasting the police investigative procedures. That in itself tells us in New Zealand First that not only should we be holding police accountable for actions or conduct that is clearly wrong, illegal, and inappropriate but also we should be providing a system and mechanism by which officers who are accused have those accusations dealt with swiftly, speedily, and in accordance with what we consider to be acceptable processes of justice. To have a police officer’s family in Kaiapoi hung out to dry for 3 years is totally, absolutely unacceptable. To find that the judge, as a consequence, has thrown the case out is even more unacceptable. It brings into question the police hierarchy in Canterbury itself and its own systems and procedures.
I think that the only way we can guarantee a fair go for victims, for those who are alleged to have committed crimes, and for the police themselves is for that responsibility to be vested in the Police Complaints Authority, and for the authority to be given the powers and resources to enable it to investigate thoroughly all allegations brought to it from the basis of first principles. We would again say that we will be having discussions with the Minister about a proposal to have this office be made an Office of Parliament.
- Motion agreed to.