Police told to say sorry to Tony Veitch
An independent watchdog has heavily criticised the police over the release to media of a file relating to assault charges against broadcaster Tony Veitch that were dismissed in court.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has recommended that police consider making a public apology to Veitch.
It also said the wording of the apology should be consulted and agreed beforehand with Veitch and his lawyer, Queen’s Counsel Stuart Grieve.
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In August 2008 Veitch was arrested and charged with six counts of male assaults female and one of injuring with reckless disregard.
In April 2009 Veitch pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court to the charge of injuring Kristin Dunne-Powell with reckless disregard for her safety and was fined $10,000, placed under supervision for nine months and ordered to complete 300 hours of community work.
In relation to the six charges of male assaults female, the Crown offered no evidence and they were dismissed.
However, in May 2009, without first having consulted with Mr Grieve, police released a bundle of 358 documents from the investigation file to news media, following a request made under the Official Information Act (OIA).
This documentation included statements containing allegations relating to the six charges which the Crown had elected not to proceed with and had not been proven in court.
Veitch’s complaint was that he would have defended all of Ms Dunne-Powell’s allegations if he’d known that police intended to release information to the news media about charges that were not substantiated in court.
“The release of personal information by police containing untested factual allegations and a summary of facts that did not form part of the charge to which Mr Veitch pleaded guilty, but related to charges that the Crown elected not to proceed with and which were subsequently dismissed by a court, was unjustified and undesirable,” the authority said.
“While police have a duty to properly inform the public about investigations and other law enforcement activities, Police do not have a public interest role to “balance” media debate or discussion. That is not consistent with the role of Police in the administration of justice.”