Police sergeant didn't report crash after drinking

By Lee Scanlon of Westport News, Jimmy Ellingham of APNZ

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

An off-duty police officer who ran a half-marathon then downed six beers and three shots of whisky in an afternoon said he thought he was OK to drive.

But on the evening on February 8, Matthew Charles Frost lost control on a 65km/h bend on State Highway 6 near Punakaiki on the West Coast of the South Island. The 51-year-old's vehicle left the road and damaged a fence.

Frost, who is based in Greymouth, didn't report the crash straight away and the delay until he was spoken to by police meant he couldn't be breath tested.

Earlier this week in the Auckland District Court he admitted a charge of careless driving, and today in the same court, Community Magistrate Janet Holmes convicted and discharged him.

She took into account his early plea and that he had already paid about $400 for the damaged fence.

Duty lawyer Lincoln Burns had sought a discharge without conviction but abandoned that because the matter would have to be put off, and Frost wanted to be dealt with today.

He had previously said he was in Auckland this week to visit family, but wouldn't say more about that when asked by APNZ outside court.

"I made a mistake and I'm paying for it. I've said what I've got to say.''

Frost didn't answer when asked if he was affected by alcohol when he crashed.

On the morning of February 8, Frost ran the Buller half marathon. A police summary of facts said that from lunchtime, Frost consumed six beers, three shots of whisky and food over a period of six hours. He said he felt OK to drive.

After the crash, which happened about 7.30pm, Frost flagged down a ride to Greymouth with a passing truck driver and made no effort to tell police about the crash.

When he was spoken later he admitted he was going a bit fast, the summary said.

West Coast police commander Inspector John Canning, speaking later, confirmed Frost had avoided them after the crash.

``He was not breath-tested because we could not locate him for two days,'' Mr Canning said.

``But we all know it's not illegal to drink and drive, it's illegal to be over the limit and that's something we couldn't prove.''

Police had learned of the crash from others.

``He didn't report it at all, we actually caught up with him, he actively avoided us, basically. We did leave messages and things like that.''

Mr Canning confirmed people facing charges usually appeared in the court in the area where an alleged offence occurred. He said he would have expected Frost's case to be dealt with on the West Coast.

However, he said anyone pleading guilty could seek a transfer to another court. Frost could also have pleaded guilty by letter, but had chosen to appear in person, Mr Canning said.

Frost was not stood down after the crash and Mr Canning said an internal employment investigation was ongoing. It would decide whether Frost's conduct was appropriate for a police officer and whether any misconduct was serious.

"Serious misconduct can lead to dismissal. Misconduct; there's a whole load of sanctions below that.''

The outcome of the investigation would not be made public.

Frost has been a police officer for 27 years. He moved to Westport from west Auckland in 2007 and transferred to Greymouth about three years later.

Mr Burns told the court of Frost's experience in the police.

"He's had to suffer the indignity of an enormous amount of publicity in relation to this matter.''

Frost had a previously clean driving record, and was in court because of a "moment's inattention'' when he was feeling tired.

But for his occupation, Frost would likely have been offered diversion, Mr Burns said.

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