Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Inquiries to police aren't rare, says Judith Collins

Inquiries to police aren't rare, she says.

Runner Lisa Robertson.
Runner Lisa Robertson.

Troubled National Minister Judith Collins has spoken of asking police questions for a colleague, amid concerns about those in the Beehive crossing the line in dealing with public servants.

Collins' approach came on behalf of Labour MP Ross Robertson, whose daughter Lisa needed more time off her job as a police officer for athletic training.

Justice Minister Collins was speaking after the resignation of National Party colleague Maurice Williamson, after he contacted police on behalf of a National Party donor facing domestic violence charges.

Collins said Robertson asked for advice about leave entitlements for his daughter Lisa, then a police officer and aspiring Olympic runner, who wanted more time for training.

Collins, who was Police Minister at the time, said she then asked police officers visiting her office what Lisa Robertson should do. Officers responded by telling her the information was available online — a fact she passed on to Robertson.

"I didn't interfere. It just goes to show there are plenty of times people contact the minister [for help]."

Collins said she thought his request was "unusual" but said it was "better to contact the minister than go straight to the police".

Robertson confirmed he asked Collins about his daughter.

"[I] tapped her on the shoulder on the way out of the House and casually asked her if she could give any advice on athletics training in the police as I have a family member in the force who is a keen athlete," he said.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said: "The perception that an MP would think a minister could have that influence is probably the disturbing part of this."

He said public servants had expressed concern privately about the level of ministerial inquiry and involvement in their portfolios.

"It's not direct, it's often done through press secretaries, a lot is done through the no-surprises policy."

Kiwis need to decide how deeply they want ministers to get involved in their portfolios, he said. "An independent police is a fundamental part of democracy."

Police spokesman Kevin Sinnott said no information on the request could be found before the Herald on Sunday deadline.

Key would only say yesterday that ministers were expected to operate within the Cabinet Manual, which barred them from being involved in deciding whether a person should be prosecuted, and on what charge.

- Herald on Sunday

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