Wednesday, November 23, 2005

"A prima facie case"

The police have finally released the results of their investigation into Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope, concluding that while there is a prima facie case for prosecution, no charges will be laid:

"These alleged events happened more than 22 years ago and the victims were not motivated to lay complaints with Police for many years. If the person at the centre of the inquiry did not have a high current public profile it is unlikely that the matter would have surfaced in the way it has in 2005.

"Given all the circumstances of the inquiry, Mr Benson-Pope is being treated no differently from any other person who might have similar matters raised about them. The case simply does not warrant use of the criminal law," said Superintendent Fraser.

Benson-Pope is naturally pleased, but he shouldn't be; this is a long way from exoneration, and the allegations will continue to cloud his future. While it is not at all unusual for the police not to lay charges over minor incidents, this seems a little more serious (being both an abuse of power and possibly part of a systematic pattern of behaviour) - and people will always be able to attribute the police's refusal to politics rather than general practice (note that there's no implication that a prosecution would fail; they simply can't be bothered). Likewise, absent a clear verdict of "not guilty" in open court, they will be able to continue to call Benson-Pope a child-beating sadist.

Last week I said that if the report came back that the allegations were likely true, but that the passage of time meant that a prosecution was unlikely to succeed, Benson-Pope should resign. I stand by that. Former sadists have no place in our Parliament.


You are an even handed man. Fair enough.

However personally I would also be even handed in saying it is a crime that occured 22 years ago when he was almost a different man. and the law/police recognises this by letting it slide.

Politicians should be punished as much as any other man but no more so. Unless you would demand that your local truck driver loose his job if there is a "pria facie case" of assult against him. Personally I'd be happy if the driver kept his job (after doing the appropriate time). (unles I thought it was relevant to his job - which is debatable)

Posted by Genius : 11/23/2005 09:21:00 PM

What really interests me is that the Police have chosen to prosecute a former teacher at my alma mater over "historical" allegations of sexual abuse that happened in the late 70's and early 80's. Another was sentenced to 2 1/2 years at the age of 67 for similar offences, committed over 20 years ago.

Now, could someone please explain the apparent double standard? And shouldn't we have statutes of limitation codified in legislation, not left up to the whims and prejudices of unelected and unaccountable police officers and lawyers?

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 11/23/2005 10:01:00 PM

Craig: as I understand it, there is a statute of limitations for minor offences, but not for major ones. That said, a prosecution can still proceed with the consent of the Attorney-General. As for double standards, I think some distinction on seriousness is probably appropriate - but Benson-Pope's offending, while not the worst in the world, wasn't exactly trivial either.

Genius: I put politicians in a different category to truck drivers; their very position depends on the public trust. I don't give a rat's arse about their sex lives (that is NOMFB), but assault is a rather different matter.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/23/2005 10:49:00 PM


Indeed, and that's why I'm trying to be careful and not bag the Police here. After all, if you're going to give them a large degree of discretion over who they do and don't prosecute it's a little rich to complain when it's exercised.

I just have to wonder if senior Police officer have a mindset that (male) teachers physically assaulting (male) students is "character forming" and victims should just get over it - an attitude they'd never take if there was a prima facae case that Benson-Pope has sexually assaulted a student 22 years ago.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 11/24/2005 06:54:00 AM

Well personally I have no doubt there is less tolerance (within and without the Police) for sexual assault over 'common' assault.
Sex sells better in the media than common violence, based I guess that many (most?) people find kid-fiddling creepier than bashing. So the Police are no doubt under4 greater pressure to prosecute sexual assault over common assault.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/24/2005 08:28:00 AM

I think he should resign as he has misled the people on NZ.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/24/2005 11:27:00 AM

I wonder if it would then be appropriate to sack a nurse if they were possibly guilty of assault 20 years ago (as an example of a job that depends on the public's trust). Maybe we should be clear about exactly when and why it is legitimate.

Anyway Having said that if we had a clear set of rules regarding when to procecute and when not to that would be good - I think craig has a point about the mindset.

Posted by Genius : 11/24/2005 06:41:00 PM