By Rob Kidd
The stalker who harassed a Dunedin businessman for two-and-a-half years can now be revealed as a police officer.
Constable Jeremy Fraser Buis, 39, was sentenced following a judge-alone trial in March to 200 hours' community work and ordered to pay the victim, Danny Pryde, $15,000 after being found guilty of criminal harassment, threatening to do grievous bodily harm and intentional damage.
Southern District commander Superintendent Paul Basham confirmed yesterday that the defendant had been suspended in February 2015 and an employment process was ongoing.
Buis had been on paid leave for nearly two-and-a-half years, which Basham stressed was standard employment practice.
At sentencing, Judge Paul Kellar suppressed the man's occupation at the request of defence counsel Anne Stevens.
But yesterday, the Otago Daily Times successfully appealed the ruling in the High Court at Dunedin.
Counsel Charlotte Carr said: "To treat a police officer differently could lead to ridicule and contempt from the public and to suppress a particular occupation invites a perception that certain classes of persons will be treated differently before the court."
Justice David Gendall said the judge's grounds for the suppression of the man's profession were unclear and he said there was "significant public interest" in the order being quashed.
"Ordering the suppression of Mr Buis' occupation because he is a police officer undermines the principle that all members of society are equal under the law," Gendall said.
"Police are not entitled to special treatment."
The news was welcomed by Pryde, who had voiced his disappointment at the situation after sentencing in April.
"It's more of a relief to know it is public. I don't know why it was ever a secret," he said. "I had to be very careful about what I said."
Pryde was quick to point out it was Buis, not the police, who wanted the profession kept under wraps.
The victim, who owns an engineering firm, had never met the defendant until June 14, 2012 when Buis parked in a location that blocked an entrance to Pryde Engineering.
Buis' car was ticketed at Pryde's request and it set in motion a bizarre, varied and prolonged campaign.
There were a slew of anonymous text messages, the victim's contact details were plastered around a gay hangout and Buis created a fake homosexual dating account using photos from Pryde's work website.
The businessman described it as "a living hell" and in the midst of the harassment believed he was going to be killed. During the trial, the court heard from Buis and two of his former colleagues who spoke about the pranks they pulled on each other.
"It was just a bit of banter-type thing that we had going," one of the officers said.
He admitted wallpapering Buis' police pigeon hole with post-it notes on which were drawn penises.
In his locker nearby, the officer had covered the inside with half-naked men, including Sonny Bill Williams.
There was also evidence of a chat on a messaging app between Buis and colleagues on which they shared a photo of Pryde with phallic images drawn on.
"I guess it's just boy chat. I was being stupid. It could be a way to de-stress from work after a hard day. We were just being idiots," one of the participants said.
Basham said it was not part of a wider problem.
"The behaviour reported on through the case is not reflective of the wider culture in the police in 2017," he said.
Of the 700 staff in the region he said the vast majority acted professionally but "you have a few who occasionally let the side down".
Basham said there was a speak-up policy in place encouraging staff to report any adverse behaviour.
"Those conversations are happening regularly and I think we have a generation of staff coming through that are mindful about those issues," he said.
Buis' sentencing coincided with the 10-year anniversary of Dame Margaret Bazley's inquiry on police culture being released.
Campaigner and sexual abuse survivors' advocate Louise Nicholas told the ODT there had been a drastic change in attitude in the past decade and commended police for their work.
But she said it was still frustrating to see cases like that of Buis.
"It was absolutely inappropriate and really, really disappointing that the colleagues around those guys were allowing that to happen," Nicholas said.
"After all that's happened in the last 10, 20, 30 years. Come on, it's time to grow up."