'Manipulative' police officer jailed on sex charges

By Sam Hurley of Hawke's Bay Today -
Police officer Adam Dunnett was found guilty of six sex charges. Photo / Paul Taylor
Police officer Adam Dunnett was found guilty of six sex charges. Photo / Paul Taylor

A "manipulative" police officer has been jailed for 22 months for indecently assaulting teenage girls at alcohol-fuelled parties.

Hawkes Bay police officer Adam Dunnett, 38, was found guilty last month of six sex charges by Judge Les Atkins following a week-long, judge alone trial at the Napier District Court.

A police spokeswoman confirmed the disgraced officer has now resigned from the New Zealand Police in the wake of the scandal.

Dunnett, a Flaxmere community constable and surf life saving coach, initially faced 10 counts of indecent assault against five complainants, all older than 16 at the time, but four of the charges were dismissed.

Crown prosecutor Gavin Thornton said Dunnett believed he had immunity because he was a police officer but was in fact an "arrogant" and "brazen" man.

"I think there is a degree of irony that the prisoner should be seeking a reduction in his sentence because he is a police officer. It is that very institution that he has brought into disrepute."

In an emotional victim impact statement, one of the teenagers addressed Dunnett during today's Napier sentencing.

"If you have half a heart Adam the words I am about to say will hopefully haunt you for the rest of your life, as your actions have haunted me for mine.

"I thought we had a great friendship Dunnett, I really did.

"How am I meant to trust another cop again?

"Where is your moral compass, obviously you don't have one."

Another victim told the court Dunnett had "put me through hell just to find justice".

"I find it very hard to trust men in my life now.

"I should be able to trust the police but it is hard now ... It will stay with me for the rest of my life."

She said the trial was difficult as she was forced to watch Dunnett "sitting there thinking you'd done nothing wrong".

"You made me hate my body and myself, and I hate what you did to those other girls."

A third asked: "How am I supposed to trust the police when one police officer has done this to a number of other girls?"

A fourth victim had her statement read out to the court by a victim support manager.
"You felt like you deserved to get away with it," the statement read.

"You made me out to be a slut ... You have tainted my opinion of older men and police officers."

The fifth victim declined to make a statement to the court.

Dunnett's lawyer, Jonathan Krebs, read out a good character reference from former Junior All Black Pat Benson QSM, who was sitting in the public gallery.

He said Mr Benson had known Dunnett since the police officer was 14 and was not the man portrayed during the "snap shot" of the court case.

"It is not a true account of the person he really is," the statement read.

Mr Krebs said the "huge, high profile public shaming" was a mitigating factor and had been a significant punishment for Dunnett.

Judge Les Atkins said Mr Krebs mentioned Dunnett was "otherwise a valued member of the force", but the key word was 'otherwise'.

"Your actions for what you are being sentenced here today for have undermined anything you had done."

He said Dunnett had displayed "appalling judgement".

Judge Atkins accepted that Dunnett had in fact said the now infamous line to two of his victims. That he was a cop and no one would believe the drunk, teenage girls.

Judge Atkins said he imposed a sentence of imprisonment rather than home detention to act as a deterrent to future offenders and police officers.

He added he did not want to create the illusion that "police officers who offend have an advantage in sentencing because they are police officers".

The judge also ordered a full psychiatric assessment of Dunnett.

In a written decision last month, Judge Atkins said Dunnett was "inclined to be manipulative" and was capable of distorting the truth "to achieve his own ends".

In total, five different incidents 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.
One of the incidents involved Dunnett indecently assaulting a girl at a February 2012 Ocean Beach toga party, when he rubbed his genitals against her.

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

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

At the same party Dunnett grabbed another teenage girl's breast as she slept and during the trial he offered the explanation that he had been "looking for his sleeping bag".

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

Mr Krebs argued throughout the trial that the complainants were voluntarily participating or consenting to sexual behaviour with Dunnett and that several witnesses were unreliable due to high levels of alcohol consumption.

Before his resignation, Dunnett had been suspended on full pay since his arrest last year.

Eastern District Commander Superintendent Sandra Venables said the sentencing sent a clear message that police would not tolerate such behaviour amongst its staff.

Today's sentencing also ends a lengthy investigation process on behalf of multiple young victims.

"Let me be very clear, we do not accept this behaviour from our staff. Dunnett's actions are completely contrary to our code of conduct and undermine the very good work undertaken by Hawke's Bay Police staff.

"The public rightly expects high standards from police officers and we will not hesitate to take appropriate action against those who do not meet these standards, including putting them before the courts," Ms Venables said.

An employment investigation was underway for Dunnett, pending the outcome of his court case. However, he had now resigned from New Zealand Police.

"I would like to thank the staff who carried out a professional investigation into one of their own. I would also like to acknowledge the victims, and police will continue to offer them support."

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