A man who was due to go on trial for sexual abuse was able to skip the country because a court staff member forgot to inform Internal Affairs of his bail conditions.
The 42-year-old from Christchurch was supposed to face court in Greymouth this week on charges he sexually abused his daughter over an eight-month period. The trial was aborted when police discovered he had cut off his electronic bail bracelet and fled to Australia.
Human error is being blamed for an alert not being given to Internal Affairs, who then issued the man a passport under his wife's surname, who he married while he was on bail.
Tony Fisher, general manager of district courts, said the processes relating to information supposed to be given to Internal Affairs in this instance weren't followed.
He believed it was human error at the Greymouth District Court and not anything wrong with the ministry's systems, but said there would be a full investigation. It's understood the letter to Internal Affairs advising of the correct bail conditions was not sent until January 25, after the man left the country.
Police yesterday said they were "actively investigating circumstances around the man's absconding".
Acting assistant commissioner of operations Barry Taylor said: "We are taking active steps to locate him and have him returned to New Zealand where he is currently facing a number of charges, which he was due to stand trial on this week."
He confirmed the man's electronic bail conditions, set in July 2012, was to surrender all passports to the court, which was to advise the Department of Internal Affairs of this condition.
"He was also not permitted to apply for any new passports whilst on electronic bail."
A spokesman from the Department of Internal Affairs said any New Zealand citizen was entitled to a passport and could choose to take their partner's surname. They still had to prove their identity and provide the name on their birth certificate to prove their entitlement to New Zealand citizenship.
Mr Taylor would not comment further while police were "taking steps" to locate the man overseas.
The man has name suppression to protect the identity of his daughter. He was arrested in October 2011 and bailed last March.
At the time he was told by Judge Raoul Neave: "If you step out of line by even a centimetre you will be back in custody smartly."
The man has 17 convictions, mainly for family violence.By Andrew Koubaridis @A_Koubaridis Email Andrew