Inquiry clears Collins over Slater's 'gunning for Feeley' email

But the PM had already made up his mind about her possible return to cabinet.

UPDATE / Nov 25: The report from the Justice Chisholm inquiry was released today, and widely expected it clears former Justice Minister Judith Collins.

It found while Ms Collins had provided information about then SFO boss Adam Feeley to Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater in 2011, "there was nothing improper about the provision of this information".

Ms Collins told media she was grateful the truth out, but that it was up to the Prime Minister whether she returns to cabinet. Yesterday, Mr Key said an immediate return was not on the cards (see below).

For his part, the former SFO boss appeared to bear no malice of the email that sparked the investigation, in which Mr Slater claimed he had spoken to Ms Collins, whom he claimed had said she was "gunning for Feeley".

"In this modern age of blogs, Twitter and unregulated social media, the public sector and law enforcement agencies in particular are, and will continue to be, subject to intense public scrutiny and media attention. This in itself is not a bad thing, until they are used for undisclosed personal agendas and interests," Mr Feeley said in a statement this afternoon.

"Just as Ministers should have confidence in their chief executives, those working in the public service must also have confidence that their Ministers will support them and act in the best interests of their portfolios. It is therefore reassuring that the inquiry has found no evidence to suggest that Minister Collins acted in any improper way."

RAW DATA: Read the full report (PDF)

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No place for Collins in the cabinet, even if she's cleared

Nov 24 John Key says he has no idea what will be in the independent report into former justice minister Judith Collins, due to land on his desk this week.

However, the prime minister has already made up his mind about whether Ms Collins makes a return to cabinet in the near term, and the answer is no.

"If Judith’s cleared, then that’s great. That would be my expectation," Mr Key said this morning.

The Papakura MP could "potentially" serve as a minister again "but not in the short term. And the reason being that I’ve got a cabinet. I’m not going to throw someone out," Mr Key said.

Ms Collins complicated her chances on October 15 when she said she was "disgusted" to learn through media, not the prime minister's office, that she would not receive the "Honourable" title usually automatically extended to ex-cabinet ministers.

Retired judge Justice Lester Chisholm has been investigating claims Ms Collins was involved in a smear campaign in 2011 against then Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley.

On August 30, Mr Key's office released an email by Cameron Slater in which the Whaleoil blogger said he had discussed the SFO head with Ms Collins. The then justice minister was "gunning for Feeley", Mr Slater wrote in the email. Ms Collins resigned later the same day. She maintained she had done nothing wrong. Resigning was the best way to expedite an inquiry to clear her name.

Over the weekend, the prime minister apologised to Mr Slater for personal harm caused by the release of the email but stood by his decision to release it.

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