Bay police officer faces jail time for sex offences

By Sam Hurley

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Adam Dunnett (left), outside Napier Courthouse, with lawyer Jonathan Krebs. Photo/File.
Adam Dunnett (left), outside Napier Courthouse, with lawyer Jonathan Krebs. Photo/File.

A "manipulative" Hawke's Bay police officer has been found guilty of six sex charges involving five teenage girls.

Flaxmere constable Adam Dunnett initially faced 10 counts of indecent assault against five complainants, all older than 16 at the time, during a week-long trial this month at the Napier District Court.

The 37-year-old denied the charges, but Judge Les Atkins found the surf life-saving coach guilty of six counts yesterday, with four other charges dismissed.

The judge said despite Dunnett being in his 30s, he assessed him as being "inclined to be manipulative" and "less than mature".

"While he could approximate the truth, he was capable of distorting it to achieve his own ends."

In total, five different incidents had occurred between May 2011 and New Year's Day 2013, four at the Ocean Beach Kiwi Surf Life Saving Club and one at the Taradale Fire Station.

Dunnett had joined the Ocean Beach Kiwi Surf Life Saving Club in 1990 as a 14-year-old when his parents lived in Taradale and he became a police officer in February 2005.

He had worked in a variety of roles including police communications, motorway patrol and as a community constable.

Judge Atkins said the officer had indecently assaulted a girl at a February 2012 Ocean Beach toga party, when he rubbed his genitals against her.

"What Mr Dunnett did in this regard would be regarded as indecent by right-minded members of the community."

The judge also said his testimony, stating one of the victims at an October 2011 Ocean Beach party had asked him to have sex with her 20 to 25 times, had an "air of artificiality".

It was during that party that Dunnett had allegedly uttered: "No one's going to believe you. You are drunk, I'm a cop. No one's going to believe you."

Judge Atkins said of the incident: "The placing of a hand beneath the underwear of a young woman who is asleep is clearly an assault and it is also an indecent assault."

At the same party Dunnett had also grabbed another teenage girl's breast as she slept. During the trial he said he had been "looking for his sleeping bag" when the incident happened.

"The suggestion from a person with experience as a police officer that he was at the time searching around and close to a body of a 16-year-old for a sleeping bag is a suggestion to which I give no credence," Judge Atkins said.

Dunnett conceded during the trial that he twice touched a "playful and flirty" teenager's breast but was convinced it was "consensual" during a surf club party in December 2011.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Krebs also argued in his closing submissions that the complainants were voluntarily participating or consenting in the incidents and several witnesses were unreliable due to high levels of alcohol consumption.

However, Judge Atkins ruled the teenage girls had at no stage given consent for Dunnett to make a sexual advance towards them and said the victims were "truthful", "responsible" and "honest".

Dunnett had also claimed that during a New Year's Eve party at the surf club in the early hours of 2013 he had mistakenly been identified in police photographs as the man who slid his hand down a teenage girl's pants.

"I am satisfied that the identification she made was not made because she recognised the photograph of Mr Dunnett as simply someone who was at the clubrooms that evening, it being made because she genuinely recognised him," Judge Atkins said.

During the trial Crown prosecutor Gavin Thornton accused Dunnett of "tailoring" his evidence to "best suit [his] interests" and failing to "acknowledge responsibility" for the offences.

Mr Thornton said because Dunnett had been an officer for 10 years, had a familiarity with the court system and full disclosure of the Crown's evidence, he doctored his story for his own benefit.

He said the five teenage girls had given their evidence in a "highly emotional nature", which was particularly hard given they "trusted and looked up to" Dunnett.

On day four of the trial Dunnett had taken the witness stand and broke down several times as he gave his testimony, but noticeably failed to shed a tear in the three preceding days when the five girls gave their evidence.

Dunnett said while on the witness stand that he had not lied in his testimony because it would only "worsen" his situation and added his "moral compass was broken due to intoxication".

He had never married but had a girlfriend in 2010 before the incidents took place.

He has been single since April of that year.

Yesterday he was no longer clean shaven as he was during the trial, and entered the courthouse with his lawyer Jonathan Krebs but both declined to comment about the impending verdict.

Dunnett again refused to comment as he left with his supporters after being remanded on bail until his sentencing on July 3.

Hawke's Bay area commander Inspector Tania Kura, who was sitting in the public gallery as the verdict was read, said police would not be making statements on the case until sentencing.

Asked if the 37-year-old was still employed with police following the guilty verdict, she again declined to comment.

Dunnett had been suspended on full pay since his arrest last year but police were not covering his legal costs.

A national police spokesman said a community officer with 10 years service, such as Dunnett, might be on an average remuneration of $71,000 depending on previous service, periods of leave without pay, experience and performance.

Ocean Beach Surf Club committee member and junior surf coordinator Adrian Barclay, who was a Crown witness during the trial, also declined to comment yesterday.

"From the surf club's point of view the less said the better, I think."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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