Monday, February 02, 2004

Police cover-up allegation

NZ Herald
February 2, 2004
Police cover-up allegation:

Inquiry tainted says probe head Rex Miller, the former top officer who did the Police Complaints Authority inquiry into the handling of the rape allegations, says police chiefs should have known years ago that his inquiry was compromised. Police Superintendent Rob Robinson has said a full inquiry was warranted because of new information that Mr Miller's review might have been compromised. The three police officers accused of gang rape deny the allegation and say it was fully and properly investigated in the 1990s.

Police Minister George Hawkins said he had previously been advised of the allegations and had been assured they had been investigated and there was no substance to them. Mr Miller told the Herald that his investigation was compromised because of interference by John Dewar, who was head of Rotorua CIB. Among allegations published at the weekend is that Mr Dewar did not properly investigate Mrs Nicholas' allegations because he was covering for the police officers. Mr Miller said Mrs Nicholas "was moulded like play dough" into not making a complaint and because of Mr Dewar's influence did not co-operate with his inquiry into Mr Dewar's handling of her allegations.

Mr Miller, who was a detective chief inspector based in Hamilton, believes he made it clear in his report that his inquiry was hamstrung by Mr Dewar's behaviour. "We couldn't thoroughly investigate it because we had all these obstacles thrown in front of us. I felt we didn't get anywhere," Mr Miller said. "I haven't got a copy of my report so I don't know how I worded it but they [the police hierarchy] knew." Although his brief was to investigate Mr Dewar's handling of Mrs Nicholas' allegations rather than her allegations themselves, Mr Miller said he was left with serious misgivings. "Did I have a bad feeling at the end of it? I've kept my notebook, with the whole [outline of the] inquiry in it. It's the only one I've ever kept," said Mr Miller, who retired in March 2000. "We always thought it had happened. We always thought something had taken place that was untoward." Investigating the allegations should have been passed to someone from another police district, Mr Miller said. "If it is someone you know personally, a workmate, you disqualify yourself from the investigation. That's the normal practice."

Mr Dewar earlier claimed that he had kept the Bay of Plenty district commander of the time, Trevor Beatson, fully informed. "But I briefed Trevor about my inquiry and he wasn't aware of the full extent of the matter," Mr Miller said. Mr Beatson has since died. As a result of Mr Miller's inquiry, the three officers were "counselled" about their behaviour. "I counselled them, Rickards, Shipton and Schollum, and I filed a report about it. That goes on their internal police file. If it's not there, it should be," Mr Miller said. He understood Mr Dewar had received a written reprimand from the complaints authority. Mr Miller was confident the inquiry now being set up could do a good job, despite past police failures on the matter


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