Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Suppression for cop even before he goes to court

It's fair to ask if sergeant on assault charge getting preferential treatment, says expert.

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

A police officer charged with assault has had his identity protected by the courts before his first appearance, prompting questions over preferential treatment.

It is understood the alleged assault occurred after a call to a domestic incident in the city on November 24.

The Christchurch sergeant had been due in court on January 7 but his defence counsel and police asked for an adjournment to February 5.

It was referred to a judge in chambers, who made an interim name suppression order until the first appearance on the charge.

Associate law professor Bill Hodge of Auckland University said questions over whether the officer had received preferential treatment in getting name suppression were fair.

He wondered whether the same decision would have been made in another case.

"We're all concerned that there shouldn't be special rules for somebody simply because of their profession," Professor Hodge said.

"Would it have been given to a carpenter if he'd been involved in a fight with builder's mates or somebody?

"If a good lawyer could have got it [interim name suppression] for a blue-collar worker, then okay, that's the way the criminal justice system works for everyone.

"But if a blue-collar worker could not have got it, then we do have the concern that [there is] special law, special treatment in the courts for special people," Professor Hodge said.

However, Matiu Dickson, a senior law lecturer at Waikato University, doubted the officer would have been granted name suppression through any special treatment because of his job.

"Police are pretty hard on their own who face criminal charges, because they want to protect the respect of the public and usually go pretty hard out in pursuing a matter."

If anything, the suppression order was a disadvantage to all other officers, who will come "under suspicion" while it remains in place, Mr Dickson said.

Police Association vice-president Stu Mills refused to comment on the case or the suppression order.

Canterbury district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles refused to say whether the officer had been suspended or stood down from frontline duties while he awaits court proceedings.

"That's an internal issue that we're addressing at the moment," Mr Knowles said. "What I will say is that one of my officers will be prosecuted for assault."

Recently it was revealed nearly 70 New Zealand police staff have been arrested in the past three years. Charges includes assault, drug dealing, drink-driving and theft.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said one officer arrested was too many, and national manager of professional standards Detective Superintendent Sue Schwalger said police take a zero-tolerance approach to criminal behaviour in their ranks.


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