Police are not entitled to special treatment | The Jackal

18 Jul 2017

Police are not entitled to special treatment

All too often in New Zealand people get away with serious crimes simply because of who they are or what they do. It’s a fault of our justice system, which often treats people differently and hands down sentences disproportionate to the crimes committed.

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Court says man who harassed Dunedin businessman for 2.5 years can be revealed as policeman

The stalker who harassed a Dunedin businessman for two-and-a-half years can now be revealed as a police officer.

Constable Jeremy Fraser Buis, 39, was sentenced following a judge-alone trial in March to 200 hours' community work and ordered to pay the victim, Danny Pryde, $15,000 after being found guilty of criminal harassment, threatening to do grievous bodily harm and intentional damage.

A very light sentence considering the crimes committed.

Buis had been on paid leave for nearly two-and-a-half years, which Basham stressed was standard employment practice.

At sentencing, Judge Paul Kellar suppressed the man's occupation at the request of defence counsel Anne Stevens.

Talk about preferential treatment… over two years on paid leave is just ridiculous! But suppressing Buis’ occupation simply because he was a police officer is entirely unacceptable! Thankfully I'm not the only one to think so.

But yesterday, the Otago Daily Times successfully appealed the ruling in the High Court at Dunedin.

Counsel Charlotte Carr said: "To treat a police officer differently could lead to ridicule and contempt from the public and to suppress a particular occupation invites a perception that certain classes of persons will be treated differently before the court."

Justice David Gendall said the judge's grounds for the suppression of the man's profession were unclear and he said there was "significant public interest" in the order being quashed.

"Ordering the suppression of Mr Buis' occupation because he is a police officer undermines the principle that all members of society are equal under the law," Gendall said.

"Police are not entitled to special treatment."

At least some people in our justice system get it. The public perception that police are somehow above the law must not be exacerbated by a biased justice system.

Hopefully in future Justice Gendall’s decision will stand as a test case and all requests for name suppression will be determined on the case and not the occupation or standing of the people involved.

In the mean time Buis should lose his taxpayer funded holiday and find a new occupation more befitting his credentials.