Louise Nicholas Case - Woman who could bring down Rickards

By Patrick Gower

The woman who helped to convict John Dewar of covering up police rape allegations is also making a claim of sex with suspended Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards that will decide his future in the police.

The woman, whose name is suppressed, told Dewar's trial of group sex she had with him and Brad Shipton - contradicting Dewar's claims that they were not friends.

The Weekend Herald has learned a claim by the same woman that she had sex with Mr Rickards on a police car bonnet in the 1980s is one of the "employment issues" that have seen him stood down on full pay of more than $150,000 a year.

It is understood the woman is to give evidence at a police disciplinary hearing that will decide Mr Rickards' fate.

Police refuse to say when the hearing will be held.

Mr Rickards' lawyer, John Haigh, QC, would not comment on the woman's claims but said Mrs Nicholas' claims that she had been "vindicated" by the Dewar verdicts were wrong, given Mr Rickards had been acquitted of all criminal allegations.

"She is being painted as a folk hero but everybody forgets she wasn't believed by a jury," he said.

"Even after the evidence [against Mr Rickards] was collected at vast cost, the jury did not accept her credibility."

The woman who gave evidence of group sex with Dewar and Shipton was in the public gallery in the High Court at Hamilton to see him convicted this week on charges of obstructing the course of justice.

She told of how she met then-Constable Shipton in the early 1980s when her husband was killed in a car crash and he was the investigating officer.

They started having a sexual relationship and he introduced her to Mr Rickards and Dewar.

She described the group sex with Dewar and Shipton as them turning up "unplanned ... with no glasses of wine before or cups of tea after".

When Mrs Nicholas went public with her allegations of pack rape and a cover-up in 2004, the woman was shocked to see Dewar say on television that he never had anything more than a professional relationship with Shipton and Mr Rickards.

She got a friend to contact Mrs Nicholas, then detailed her allegations in the media and after to the Operation Austin investigation.

Detective Superintendent Nick Perry, who headed Operation Austin, told the Weekend Herald that Shipton and a "core group" of officers around him, like Bob Schollum, were "predatory" and targeted "vulnerable women".

Mr Perry said the investigation uncovered up to a dozen other alleged women victims of the group that they considered putting to a court.

Shipton and Schollum were convicted of the pack rape of a Mt Maunganui woman in 1989.

Along with Mr Rickards, they were acquitted of pack raping Mrs Nicholas and another Rotorua woman.

The hurdles confronting Louise Nicholas

Brad Shipton (left) and Bob Schollum were serving jail sentences for the 1989 pack rape of a young woman.

When Louise Nicholas gave evidence to the High Court about what she alleged had happened to her in Rotorua, she faced several hurdles. They included:

* Jury not allowed to know Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum were serving jail sentences for the 1989 pack rape of a young woman.

* Minimal similar fact evidence was produced, limiting the jury's ability to consider whether there was a pattern in the evidence given by three complainants in respect of whom Shipton and Schollum were charged. (Clint Rickards was charged and acquitted of raping two of them.) All three women said they were detained, that Shipton was the main protagonist and that Schollum was conciliatory. Two said they were violated with a police baton, one said she was violated with a bottle. Two said they were handcuffed.

* Credibility damage from Nicholas having had such a high media profile.

* Credibility damage as she had alleged sexual offending by seven policemen and had as a sixth-former falsely told a teacher she was raped "by Maori on horseback". Questioned about that later on oath, she said she didn't know why she had said this but had been afraid to tell the truth because she didn't think her word would be accepted against police officers.

* Credibility damage from manipulation by Dewar, who sabotaged Detective Chief Inspector Rex Miller's Police Complaints Authority inquiry by taking a statement from Nicholas that the sex was consensual. Nicholas says Dewar persuaded her it was in her best interests and he had drafted the statement.

* The complainant's character is on trial while the defendant's is not.

No comment: official response from police

The Weekend Herald put questions to Police Commissioner Howard Broad about the Nicholas case fall-out. These are his answers:

Clint Rickards continues on full pay as Assistant Commissioner of the New Zealand police. Now that John Dewar has been convicted of covering up sex allegations against Mr Rickards, why is he still employed?

Mr Broad: No comment - there is an ongoing employment process.

Given they have either been convicted of sex crimes or of covering them up, will the police review any of the investigations, particularly those with sex allegations, conducted by Brad Shipton, Bob Schollum and John Dewar?

Mr Broad: Should anyone have complaints about the manner in which their case was conducted they should contact police.

Given his close association with these three men, will the police review any of the investigations, particularly those with sex allegations, conducted by Mr Rickards?

Mr Broad: No comment - there is an ongoing employment process.

The Weekend Herald also approached former Commissioner Rob Robinson, who retired in December, 2005.

Why was Clint Rickards continually promoted through to Assistant Commissioner when you knew about the sex allegations against him and Dewar's flawed investigation into them?
No comment. Mr Robinson will not respond to the Weekend Herald.

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