Judge lambasts top cops in damning report

The actions of some of the country's highest-ranking police have been criticised in a damning Independent Police Conduct Authority report due out later today.

The report - released after a two-year investigation - makes adverse comments about 10 Dunedin police, including four inspectors, a detective senior sergeant and two detective sergeants.

Justice Lowell Goddard is understood to criticise police for their involvement in private investigations of ACC clients - and for how they handled their subsequent inquiries into complaints.

The inquiry was launched after conflict of interest allegations that Peter Gibbons - a former Dunedin CIB head who became a private investigator working for ACC's fraud unit - used his police constable son-in-law to improperly obtain search warrants and seize property from ACC clients. The clients alleged that when they complained, senior police - including three of Gibbons' former CIB colleagues - failed to act.

They also alleged that warrants were issued on false and misleading information.

Gibbons' son-in-law, Andrew Henderson, is one of those named in Goddard's report and Gibbons himself is facing a hearing this month to determine whether he is fit to hold a private investigator's licence.

Gibbons runs Dunedin company Mainland Information Consultants and holds ACC fraud unit contracts worth more than $170,000 a year.

A police spokesman said yesterday that police couldn't comment specifically on the report because it had not yet been publicly released. But police accepted there were aspects of the handling of the cases referred to in the report "which could be improved, particularly with regard to managing perceived conflicts of interest".

Processes would be reviewed in light of the report.

New legislation was also introduced to parliament last week relating to the way search warrants are obtained and executed.

The report which had been due out on August 7, was held up when some of the officers wanted the chance to comment on the findings. It is now due for release at 5pm today.

The ACC clients who have received copies of the report, Bruce Van Essen, Hazel Sinclair and two others, declined to comment yesterday.

Gibbons, who was a detective senior sergeant in the CIB in the 1990s, supervised three of the police criticised in the Goddard report Detective Senior Sergeant Kallum Croudis, Detective Sergeant Malcolm Inglis and Detective Sergeant Brett Roberts.

A previous internal police inquiry showed Croudis assigned Henderson ACC-related cases knowing about his conflict of interest as Gibbons' son-in-law. Inglis and Roberts conducted the initial inquiries into Van Essen's complaints.

Croudis, Inglis and Roberts have been involved in both the original inquiry and reinvestigation of the David Bain mass murder case. Croudis arrested Bain in 1995.

The Star-Times understands the report also makes less serious comments about Detective Inspector Ross Pinkham, one of the South Island's highest-ranking officers, for his dealings with the complaints by members of a support group for ACC clients and their families.

Pinkham is currently investigating a complaint against Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope by Scott Watson's father Chris Watson, alleging that Pope swore a misleading affidavit to gain the right to obtain a series of interception warrants to bug Scott Watson's yacht, home and telephones.

Other officers against whom adverse findings have been made are understood to include:

* Inspector Dave Campbell, area commander for Dunedin and Clutha. In February last year, Campbell supervised the first internal police inquiry into Van Essen's complaints, that police had allowed ACC staff to search his home unsupervised, had acted on false and misleading information and had stolen two memory sticks. Campbell did not uphold any of Van Essen's complaints.

* Inspector Lane Todd. Todd, southern district operations manager, who conducted a second inquiry into Van Essen's complaints last November.

Sunday Star Times