Was there a cover up?

English could have answered questions about this in March and April.

The NZ Herald directly asked the Prime Minister's office in March and April if his text messages had been taken by police as part of the investigation into Barclay.

We also asked if he was interviewed as part of the inquiry and what legal advice he had sought.

The PM's office simply did not respond to questions in March. The same questions were asked a month later. Again there was no response.

Another email with the questions went in and a press secretary finally responded: "The matter has been dealt with. We have nothing further to add."

The Herald asked for an interview on the basis that the Prime Minister's text messages had been taken as evidence in a criminal inquiry. "Thanks for the offer, but no thanks," was the response.

The Herald then applied for the police file under the Official Information Act (OIA) but key details about English's involvement were redacted.

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English said in Parliament yesterday: "Allegations of a cover-up are ridiculous. The statements made to me regarding this were reported to the relevant party official - that is on the record - and then to the police. It is a weird world when the Labour Party says that reporting a matter to the police is a cover-up."

So why wasn't English's statement in the Barclay file released when the NZ Herald applied for the file?

Police said material, presumably including English's statement, was redacted from the Barclay file "considering the privacy interests in this case".

"The redacted file that was released took into account the views of the individuals consulted."

In Parliament yesterday, English said: "I understand there has been an Official Information Act process. I was aware of it. I did not really take part in it.

"I am sure that all discussions were conducted consistent with the Official Information Act, and the Police, in the end, have statutory independence.

"In addition to that, like any other agency, it makes the decisions about what information it releases, taking into account whatever factors it thinks are relevant."

The police would have had to weigh up English's privacy rights against the public interest in letting it be known the Prime Minister was interviewed by detectives because he had relevant information to a criminal inquiry into one of his own MPs.

Police released the investigation file into Todd Barclay with heavy redactions.
Police released the investigation file into Todd Barclay with heavy redactions.

The final decision does rest with police but police - and any agency considering an OIA response - would consider the views of the person affected.

It seems odd that English "did not really take part" in the process and, in the absence of his views, that the statement wasn't released.

Police have to consider the effect of releasing such statements, and have previously voiced concerns that witnesses would be less willing to disclose information were it to become public.

But MPs are different. The public would have a broad expectation that a Member of Parliament would always do his or her best to cooperate with law enforcement. After all, they make the laws those officers work to uphold.

Where is the recording?

This is a big one and the answer rests with Barclay. It would be a key piece of evidence in any court case, were a prosecution to proceed.

Police appear to have considered a search warrant to look for it but backed off because of Parliament's special protection for property it rents or owns, like MP's offices.

A lot of questions would be answered if Barclay simply handed it over to police. He has not.

It leaves the National Party heading into the election with an MP potentially sitting on key evidence in a police prosecution.

There is also a question as to whether the recording still exists.

Given it is evidence in a criminal investigation, it would be a lapse in judgment to have deleted or destroyed it. However, there have been a number of lapses in judgment already.

Was the recording deliberate?

The release of English's statement changed little in terms of the question as to whether the recording was made illegally, and neither did the revelation of his text messages.

Three steps prove a recording is illegal. The first is that there was an "interception" device - a dictaphone. Barclay told English he had "left a dictaphone running that recorded all conversations in the office".

But the next two steps that would make the act illegal are unclear. The second is whether it was a "private" conversation.

Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay (right) with National MPs Ian McKelvie (left) and Alastair Scott.
Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay (right) with National MPs Ian McKelvie (left) and Alastair Scott.

English told police he didn't know if Barclay was in the office at the time. If he was, and Barclay was party to those conversations, then the recordings aren't illegal. If he was, then that's step two answered.

The third is intent, and there has been nothing that clearly shows Barclay deliberately left the dictaphone there with the purpose of intercepting the conversation.

Barclay knows the answer to the final two steps. It is information the police need to know to close its investigation, one way or another.

His decision to step down at the election means he will be collecting $40,000 as an MP and then $40,000 exit pay while holding the answers.

What of the phone call with Dickson?

This is Glenys Dickson's allegation that a National Party board member asked her to consider withdrawing her complaint to police. The NZ Herald has identified that board member as Glenda Hughes.

It means the fallout from the Barclay affair is not contained within the Parliamentary wing of the National Party.

National Party board member Glenda Hughes talked to Glenys Dickson, who received a payout after leaving Todd Barclay's electorate office.
National Party board member Glenda Hughes talked to Glenys Dickson, who received a payout after leaving Todd Barclay's electorate office.

It extends to the board, because if Hughes was involved in such a call, was it a decision she made alone? And how did she come by the knowledge that Dickson was the person to speak to?

And at least one other board member was involved in the electorate tensions around Barclay's alleged actions - Kate Hazlett. It seems unlikely two board members would be active in trying to contain the issue without president Peter Goodfellow being briefed.

Result of police re-investigation

On October 30 police publicly announced the findings of its reinvestigation into the Barclay saga.

They confirmed Barclay will not face any charges after again refusing to speak to detectives probing his secret taping of a staff member.

"After a thorough review of all information available to us, including legal advice both internal and from Crown Law, plus consideration of the Solicitor General's prosecution guidelines, police has determined that there is no change to the outcome of the original investigation," said Assistant Commissioner (Investigations) Richard Chambers.

Chambers said the re-investigation included looking at suggestions that there had been "an element of coercion in relation to certain key witnesses".

"We have found nothing to substantiate these suggestions."