Monday, February 21, 2011

Some "watchdog"

The Independent Police Conduct Authority is supposed to be our watchdog on the police, ensuring they are investigated and if necessary prosecuted for abuse of power and criminal behaviour. So when a Wairarapa police officer hid more than a hundred child abuse cases from his superiors, allowing children to suffer in silence and abusers go unprosecuted while he got a promotion, you'd expect them to at least interview him while investigating the complaint, right?

Yeah, right:

THE POLICEMAN accused of covering up the extent of child abuse cases in Wairarapa was never interviewed by the Independent Police Conduct Authority, a "glaring" omission, says the Police Association.

Former Wairarapa CIB head Mark McHattie is the officer who came out worst in the authority's report last week, which found "serious failings" in the investigation of child abuse.

It was revealed McHattie wrongly told superiors in Wellington that the number of unresolved child abuse files in his district had fallen from 121 to 29 in September 2006. He wrote: "With my hand on my heart, I can honestly say the total number of [child abuse] investigation files currently held for investigation is 29."

Later McHattie was promoted to detective senior sergeant and headed Auckland's serious crime squad. But an internal investigation found 100 of the Wairarapa child abuse files were inappropriately resolved or misfiled, with 46 closed in two days at the end of August 2006.

Quite apart from sheet incompetence on the part of the IPCA, this is also a gross breach of Mr Mchattie's right to natural justice. A key part of natural justice is audi alteram partem - "hearing the other side" - and this seems to have been completely ignored. And this will have consequences: if a police disciplinary tribunal finds against McHattie on the basis of the IPCA's report, he may be able to legally challenge it. The IPCA's stupidity may mean letting a corrupt, incompetent cop stay in the job - which is exactly what they're supposed to be protecting us from.