The devil's in the detail | The Jackal

26 Oct 2012

The devil's in the detail

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

It appears the Police Association's Greg O'Connor may have been watching rather too many of these fantasy-laden programmes. How else to explain his extraordinary comment that a judge's decision to throw out charges against 21 people associated with a Nelson motorcycle gang was a "slap in the face" for an undercover officer involved in the case? In fact, so comprehensively were normal procedures abused during Operation Explorer that Justice Simon France's trenchant ruling should be the catalyst for further inquiries into the police's conduct.

It's been a long time since I've agreed with anything in the Herald editorial.

The abuse began when police bosses became concerned that the undercover officer, known in the Red Devils motorcycle gang as Michael Wiremu Wilson, was about to be exposed. To strengthen his credibility, the police arranged for a fake search warrant of his lock-up in which they had placed apparently stolen equipment and drug paraphernalia. Police forged an illegible signature of a court deputy registrar and arrested Wilson. He appeared several times before judges who all believed they were dealing with a genuine case.

So Police falsified a document in order to mislead a court of law. Forgery is a very serious crime under the Crimes Act 1961 (PDF), which states:


(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who makes a false document with the intention of using it to obtain any property, privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration.
(2) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who makes a false document, knowing it to be false, with the intent that it in any way be used or acted upon, whether in New Zealand or elsewhere, as genuine.

Clearly (1) applies, as the Police gained an advantage that benefited them at the time by furthering their investigation into the Red Devils.

The real stupid thing is that after the raid, the police were declaring Operation Explorer the most successful undercover operation to date. How things have changed.

The Herald article continues:

Two officers, Detective Superintendent Rod Drew and Senior Sergeant Warren Olsson, had visited the then Chief District Court Judge, Russell Johnston, and believed they had his permission to go through with the ruse. Justice France found, however, that a letter they had given to Judge Johnston was "wholly inadequate" to alert him to the realities of what was involved.

So Drew and Olsson mislead Judge Russell Johnston... This is another serious crime:

Conspiring to defeat justice

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who conspires to obstruct, prevent, pervert, or defeat the course of justice in New Zealand or the course of justice in an overseas jurisdiction.

Clearly falsifying a court document and misleading a high court Judge is an attempt to pervert the course of justice. The Police have in fact prevented justice from being served by their gung-ho tactics. If they had simply followed proper procedure, some prosecutions against members of the Red Devils may still be applicable.

In my opinion there's no excuse for the kind of behaviour exhibited by the Police in this matter, which if other recent cases are anything to go by is a systemic and entrenched problem within the force. At least Justice Simon France has done the right thing by throwing the charges out. It's likely that any appeal by the Police will fail.

The crux of the matter is that every police officer who testified against the Red Devils, knowing false documents had been supplied, has in fact committed perjury:

Perjury defined

(1) Perjury is an assertion as to a matter of fact, opinion, belief, or knowledge made by a witness in a judicial proceeding as part of his evidence on oath, whether the evidence is given in open court or by affidavit or otherwise, that assertion being known to the witness to be false and being intended by him to mislead the tribunal holding the proceeding.

Clearly the police officers who knew about the forged documents and subsequently gave false witness have committed perjury. This would include the undercover agent known as Michael Wiremu Wilson. Obviously the Police have set out to mislead the various tribunals holding procedures. Here's what the law states about the possible consequences:

Punishment of perjury

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who commits perjury.
(2) If perjury is committed in order to procure the conviction of a person for any offence for which the maximum punishment is not less than 3 years' imprisonment, the punishment may be imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.

Meaning that if the sentences the Police were trying to obtain result in possible sentences of 3 years or more, the police officers who committed perjury in trying to obtain those sentences are liable to imprisonment for up to 14 years. Ouch! That's what the law states, but don't go holding your breath.

What the Police need to remember is that you shouldn't break the law to try to uphold the law.

In this case, Police have dishonestly represented the facts of the matter, mislead a number of judiciaries, distorted the truth, abused court process by forging documents and in so doing perverted the course of justice.

They should be held to account for such underhanded and dishonest tactics...  But unfortunately the useless Judith Collins is the current Minister of Police, so nothing will be done and justice will not be served.