Labour leader Phil Goff last night confirmed his daughter had appeared in an Australian court after being caught with drugs in her bra – but escaped a criminal record.
Sara Goff, 25, had her case called earlier this year at Downing Centre Local Court after being nabbed with four Ecstasy tablets outside a New Year celebration. She did not front in person but instead entered a written guilty plea.
The Sunday Star-Times can reveal Sara Goff, an Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry policy analyst, was stopped as she entered the main entrance of the Fuzzy Field Days Festival dance party in north Sydney's domain at 2.22pm on January 1 by Senior Constable Matthew Pople.
"Police charged [Goff] with one count of possession of a prohibited drug after allegedly finding four tablets, suspected of being Ecstasy," New South Wales police spokeswoman Joanne Elliott confirmed.
Sara Goff told police during the search the dark-coloured pills stamped with the letters "CK" were Ecstasy. "She was taken to the police command post and cautioned." She was charged under New South Wales' Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act.
She was one of 83 people caught with illicit substances by a specialist police squad running a drug-dog operation at the dance party. Large quantities of Ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine, GHB and cannabis were seized during the sting, a police statement said. Eleven were charged with supplying drugs.
A Sydney court official told the Star-Times community magistrate Lee Gilmour convicted Sara Goff, fined her $A500 and ordered her to pay $A76 court costs.
Goff lodged an appeal, understood to be on the grounds that a conviction would limit her ability to travel internationally, and New South Wales District Court judge Ronald Solomon reviewed the case and found "she had committed the offence, but dismissed it without recording a conviction", said the court official.
Under New South Wales law a person convicted of possessing or using Ecstasy can receive a fine of up to $5000 or can be imprisoned for up to two years.
Court documents obtained by the Star-Times reveal "police asked the accused where [the pills] were located and [she] said `in my bra'." The documents go on to state: "The accused was searched ... and she removed from the left hand side of her bra a small clear resealable bag containing four dark pills, embossed with `CK'.
"The accused was cautioned and asked several questions. In relation to what the pills were she replied `Ecstasy'. When further questioned as to who placed them in her bra she stated `myself'. The accused ... stated it was her intention to `consume them'."
The documents say Sara Goff was staying in Sydney's Rose Bay at the time of the drugs bust but "has returned for NZ, in Sydney on vacation". Yesterday she did not respond to interview requests from the Star-Times about her arrest and court appearance.
Speaking at Auckland airport yesterday Phil Goff confirmed his daughter's arrest but said he was confident she had never taken drugs. "I can tell you something, that my daughter has never taken drugs, never taken drugs. I'm not challenging this [court document], she was discharged, she was not convicted.
"I'm not being naive as a father, I know she has not taken drugs apart from the legal drug of alcohol. People do make mistakes in their lives. Kids make mistakes in their lives."
Maf spokesman Iain Butler last night confirmed Sara Goff was still working for the government department.
A former Hamilton Girls' High School pupil, she is one of three children to the 57-year-old Mt Roskill MP who was justice minister from 1999-2005 and corrections minister from 2007-2008.
News of his daughter's arrest has come at an unwelcome time for Phil Goff, who replaced former prime minister Helen Clark as Labour leader when she stood down in 2008. Polls have had him lagging way behind National's John Key and a further drop was seen in popularity polls last week amid revelations of Labour MPs misusing their ministerial credit cards.
Additional reporting Shannon Tonki, Fairfax Australia.
- Sunday Star Times