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Police accused of corruption over investigation into director of Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd

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26 August 2012

Police accused of corruption over investigation into director of Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd

Christchurch Police have been accused of corruption by deliberately obstructing a recent investigation into a complaint about ex police detective and co-director of Provision Security Ltd and Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd, Nick Thompson.

The complaint alleged that Thompson had threatened a complainant during a Court hearing and thus appeared to be an attempt to pervert the course of justice. One would have expected a prompt Police response, but regardless of the fact that no investigation was conducted, not even to question Thompson, a Senior Sergeant somehow felt he had sufficient information to determine that the threat was merely an “off the cuff” comment and closed the file.

Subsequent investigations by Police National Headquarters and the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) into a complaint about the failure have been revealed to be nothing more than shallow damage control that has merely raised yet more questions about the ability of the Police and IPCA  to investigate serious wrongdoing by police officers.

Thompson’s threat was made in February 2010 outside the Christchurch Court House during a break in a hearing before the Registrar of Private Investigators and Security Guards (PISG), Gary Harrison, who administers the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act and has the powers of a District Court Judge.

The hearing concerned a complaint by Bruce Stuart-Menteath who alleged that Provision Security Ltd had committed offences against the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act whilst carrying out security operations for Solid Energy at its Stockton coal mine near Westport. If the hearing of Stuart-Menteath’s complaint proved that serious offences against the Act had been committed the Registrar PISG had the power to cancel Provision Security’s operating licence.

Stuart-Menteath was representing himself and gave evidence in support of his complaint along with two other witnesses and at the time of the threat incident he was in the process of cross-examining Gavin Clark, one of the two directors of Provision Security, both of whom are also directors of Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd. Clark was clearly irritated by Stuart-Menteath’s cross-examination and refused to answer some questions.

When Mr Harrison, called a break in the proceedings Stuart-Menteath and a supporter went outside and sat on a seat in front of the Courthouse. Mr Thompson and Provision Security’s lawyer, Alistair Darroch, approached and both men stopped briefly while Mr Darroch spoke to Stuart-Menteath about the hearing process.

Then, just as they continued on their way Thompson turned to Stuart-Menteath and his supporter and said, “I’m going to smash you f..kers” and immediately walked off. Stuart-Menteath didn’t know Thompson’s identity at that time, but had noticed him sitting in the public gallery during the hearing. When the hearing resumed Thompson did not return, but Stuart-Menteath was surprised to discover that he was a co-director of Provision Security and Thompson & Clark Investigations. Both Clark and Thompson maintain a professional, if not personal, relationship with the Police in Christchurch.

When the hearing resumed Stuart-Menteath expressed his concern to Registrar Harrison about the threat. Mr Harrison briefly questioned Mr Darroch about what had happened. Darroch explained that he did not actually hear what Thompson had said, but from a discussion he had with him immediately after the incident he claimed that there was no suggestion of improper influence. Clearly, for Darroch and Thompson to even discuss the incident at the time suggests that they were both aware of the implications of Thompson’s threat. Nevertheless, Harrison accepted Thompson’s version of the incident as relayed by Darroch, concluded that the comment was not aimed at intimidating Stuart-Menteath and refused to take any action against Thompson. He advised Stuart-Menteath to raise the matter with the Police if he wished.

Stuart-Menteath made a statement to the police the next day, which identified Thompson and the other witnesses to the incident and also provided Provision Security’s address. The investigation seemed to be taking a long time and on at least two occasions in the following months Stuart-Menteath made enquiries as to its progress and was advised that it had yet to be completed.

Finally, when he contacted Police Communications at Christchurch in November 2010, Stuart-Menteath was told that the investigating officer had noted in the file that they were unable to find Thompson and that no further action was to be taken on the complaint. He was informed that the investigation into his complaint had been closed because the officer who had assessed it had concluded that the threat by Thompson was merely a minor “off the cuff” comment and on his assessment the matter was not investigated and the file closed.

The Police had made no attempt to keep Stuart-Menteath informed on the progress of the investigation of his complaint, or its outcome. It was also apparent that neither had they made any attempt to contact Thompson or the other witnesses and that the Senior Sergeant who closed the file had done so in the absence of any information about the nature of Thompson’s threat other than Stuart-Menteath’s statement.

Concerned at the total absence of professional procedure, particularly given that one would expect that a complaint about a threat seemingly intended to pervert the course of justice by intimidating a party to Court proceedings, Stuart-Menteath made a complaint to the Commissioner of Police.

But the investigation by Police Professional Practices Manager, Brent Mikaera, that followed resulted in an explanation that was equally absurd and unbelievable. Mikaera revealed that the officer who took the complaint, a Constable Koppert, had claimed that he had advised Stuart-Menteath that the proper process in dealing with such a threat was that the Court would conduct an investigation and then take appropriate action.

Despite its absurdity Mikaera accepted that excuse and did not ask Koppert any hard questions, such as by what reasonable means he could have thought that the Courts had an investigative role in any complaints that had been brought to the police? Koppert was not a new recruit and there is nothing in police training or complaint procedure that suggests such a course of action. Nevertheless, Koppert claimed that he had given Stuart-Menteath that advice and took no action on the complaint on the assumption that the advice had been followed.

No clarification was sought from Koppert about what he thought Stuart-Menteath had made a written statement to the police for if he had just been given advice that the matter would be investigated by the Court, or what he then did with it, but it somehow found its way to Senior Sergeant Joyce who closed the file.

Despite such an preposterous excuse, Mikaera accepted Koppert’s explanation and merely recommended that the proper procedure when dealing with complaints should be brought to his attention.

Not content with the lack of thoroughness of Mikaera’s investigation, Stuart-Menteath then made a complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA). In the opening paragraph of his letter of complaint to the IPCA Stuart-Menteath specifically stated;

“I wish to make a complaint concerning the failure of the Christchurch Police to pursue an investigation into a complaint I made ...” [emphasis in bold italics added]

The IPCA then conducted its own investigation, which was carried out by Senior Sergeant Jane Whitmore. However, her investigation also ignored the primary issue. Instead of trying to discover why or how the Police failed to pursue an investigation into Stuart-Menteath’s complaint, or whether the explanations provided by Koppert and Joyce were credible, she sought to discover whether or not there was a prima facie case for a prosecution that should have been pursued if Stuart-Menteath’s complaint had been investigated at the time he made it. She concluded that there was not, but she did not examine why, or how, the Police had failed to pursue an investigation in the first place.

The only explanations that Whitmore discovered for the failure to investigate the matter were the same that Mikaera found, the absurd excuses of Constable Koppert and Senior Sergeant Joyce, both of which smacked of contempt. Whitmore failed to investigate how, or why, two experienced police officers could pursue such actions, or lack of, that were so contrary to proper police procedure, or even common sense.

Nevertheless, she did request statements from Thompson, Darroch and Stuart-Menteath’s witness. From their responses she concluded that Thompson had indeed spoken the words to the effect of “I’m going to smash you f..kers”, but rather than interpret that as a threat, she accepted Thompson’s explanation that the words were not personally directed at Stuart-Menteath, but at “...your group, the Save Happy Valley Coalition [SHVC] and campaign.” 

Now, Whitmore’s conclusion in this respect is somewhat bizarre. Not only did she make Stuart-Menteath a member of an organisation that he did not belong to, and she had no evidence to the contrary, but she was also saying that the Police will act on such a threat if it is directed at an individual witness/complainant, but not if it is directed at a group of witnesses/complainants.

Stuart-Menteath maintains that Whitmore’s concluding report actually reveals that she too suffered from bias in support of Thompson’s explanation. In concluding that his threat was benign she erred by connecting Stuart-Menteath with the Save Happy Valley Coalition, despite having been made aware that neither the incidents that led to Stuart-Menteath’s complaint to the Registrar PISG, or his actual complaint to the Registrar PISG, or to the IPCA, were connected to the Save Happy Valley Coalition in any way.

The Save Happy Valley Coalition had been involved in various protests and non-violent direct action in its opposition to Solid Energy’s proposed open cast coal mine at Happy Valley and the destruction of a rare native snail found within the Stockton mine at Mt Augustus.

However, Stuart-Menteath’s complaint to the Registrar PISG concerned the conduct of Provision Security employees on DOC land at Mt Augustus during an independent survey of great spotted kiwi he had conducted in the area. It was obvious during the hearing of his complaint before the Registrar PISG that Provision Security’s witnesses could not accept, even in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, that he was not a member of SHVC or engaged in any form of protest activity. They had tried to assert that he was a member of the group as a means of devaluing his complaint to the Registrar PISG in that it was somehow a continuation of the protest activity.

It is apparent by Whitmore’s reference to the SHVC, that she was partial to Thompson’s, and/or Darroch’s, statements and had accepted them at face value. If she did not do so for the same purpose, of devaluing Stuart-Menteath’s complaint as spurious, then the implied connection was there for the IPCA to adopt regardless.

In Whitmore’s concluding report she also stated that Thompson’s threat did not affect witness evidence at the hearing of Stuart-Menteath’s complaint about PSL and that there was insufficient evidence to support a charge against Thompson. She discovered no credible explanation for why there had been no investigation, but nevertheless recommended to the IPCA that Stuart-Menteath’s complaint should not be upheld. It needs to be noted here that Whitmore clearly fudged the issue. What her recommendation referred to was not what Stuart-Menteath had complained about, i.e. the lack of an investigation per se, but whether or not Thompson should have been prosecuted if an investigation had been conducted at the time the initial complaint had been made.

The IPCA nevertheless accepted Whitmore’s report and followed the same flawed reasoning. Whilst it upheld that Stuart-Menteath’s complaint had been closed without an investigation, it failed to explain why, in doing so, the Police had failed to follow proper procedure. It preferred to refer to the lack of an investigation as “delays” and, incongruously, that the Police had provided Stuart-Menteath with a “reasonable explanation”. It maintained that there was no evidence of misconduct or neglect of duty and that Whitmore’s investigation provided Stuart-Menteath with “a satisfactory explanation” for his concerns.

Still unconvinced Stuart-Menteath again wrote to the IPCA Manager of complaints, Pieter Roozendaal, and expressed his dissatisfaction in its conclusions with regard to the Police’s explanation for the failure to investigate his complaint. But Roozendaal refused to reopen the investigation and advised that if there were any unresolved matters they should be directed at the Police.

Stuart-Menteath wrote to the Commissioner of Police again and reviewed the flawed investigation and findings of Roozendaal and Whitmore. He pointed out that despite the IPCA findings, there were clearly a number of unresolved issues that would have benefited from further investigation, such as, by what credible means could Constable Koppert hold the belief that the Courts were going to deal with the complaint; why did he not follow proper Police procedure and, given the irrational and unreasonable explanations for the Police failure to investigate the complaint, was that a systemic failure or misconduct?

However, Inspector Ian McKeown, acting on behalf of the Commissioner, refused to acknowledge there was a problem and sidestepped the issue with the same reasoning that Mikaera, Roozendaal and Whitmore had done. Ignoring Stuart-Menteath’s questions about why and how Koppert and Joyce could have failed in their jobs so spectacularly, whether the reasons be systemic or misconduct, he responded by referring to the Solicitor General’s guidelines on prosecutions and a legal opinion that the evidence did not meet the threshold to justify a prosecution of Thompson, and refused to reopen the investigation and do it properly. So, who’s got something to hide?

For further information contact Bruce Stuart-Menteath at b.menteath@xtra.co.nz