Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Westie cop ends up in his own dock

Policeman charged with smuggling for inmates once escorted accused into court.

A West Auckland cop charged with giving cannabis, tobacco and other contraband to prisoners in courthouse cells appeared in the dock two months ago in a high-profile case involving another police drug scandal.

Lotovale Perese, 42, was a constable based at Henderson and for the past 2 years has worked as a prisoner escort at the Waitakere District Court. His role included escorting defendants from the cells to the courtroom.

Among those he flanked in the dock was Peter Pakau, a former colleague accused in May of making methamphetamine and collecting debt on behalf of gang members.

When Pakau, who has since resigned from the police, first appeared in court it was Perese who escorted him. At the time Perese was completely unaware that police were already investigating him after being tipped off about his own alleged offending.

Yesterday Perese was led into the dock at the Waitakere District Court by a senior detective rather than a member of his own team. He had been rostered on to work, but was arrested before his shift began.

He is facing 35 charges of causing contraband items to be brought into Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility and Auckland Central Remand at Mt Eden, with the intent they came into the possession of prisoners. Each charge carries a maximum of three months' imprisonment.

Perese wept as the court heard details of his alleged offending.

Between February and July this year he allegedly gave varying amounts of cannabis, tobacco, cigarettes and cigarette papers, lighters, pens, a handwritten letter, tattoo ink and usb memory sticks to prisoners.

Defence lawyer Richard Earwaker sought name suppression, stating his arrest had been sudden and unexpected and he had not had a chance to inform his family of the charges. He said he also had concerns for Perese's mental health.

However, police said suppression would cast "unfair suspicion" over other police officers. Judge Eddie Paul agreed and refused to grant the order. He added it would undermine public confidence in police, and among officers, if Perese's identity was shielded.

Outside court, Detective Inspector Bruce Scott said Perese had been under investigation for "several months" but could not be drawn further as the matter was before the courts. He said it was "gutting" to see another of his officers in that position.

"We're bitterly disappointed that somebody would put our good name on the sword like this. The whole of the district is very disappointed," he said.

"They put their lives on the line every day they fight crime. And to have this happen is a huge disappointment."

Mr Scott said the charges against Perese and Pakau were not connected - nor were they indicative of the culture of the Waitakere police.

He said any allegations of police misbehaviour on any level were "vigorously investigated".

"And any bad apples are dealt with and dealt with swiftly."

- NZ Herald

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