Chch officers threaten to sue police chief

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 14:34 20/12/2013
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall
CRAIG SIMCOX

UNDER FIRE: Police Commissioner Peter Marshall.

Gordon Stanley Meyer
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
SENTENCED: Gordon Meyer.
Christchurch South police station
POLICE STATION: Christchurch South officers are based in a building on Colombo St, Beckenham.

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A group of Christchurch police officers are threatening to sue Police Commissioner Peter Marshall for defamation over comments made about leadership at the Christchurch South Station where corrupt ex-cop Gordon Stanley Meyer worked.

In a statement issued today, Christchurch lawyer Grant Cameron said he was acting for a group of senior officers who were formerly part of the management team at the station.

Meyer, 45, was yesterday sentenced in the High Court in Christchurch to nine months' home detention. He had admitted offences while he was on duty in 2011 - indecently assaulting an 18-year-old and agreeing to a bribe, namely an offer of oral sex, from a 23-year-old woman to stop investigating her for drink-driving.

After Meyer pleaded guilty to the two charges last month, police national headquarters issued a statement to Fairfax Media about an inquiry into operations and leadership at the Christchurch South station, which ran alongside the criminal investigation into Meyer.

The statement said the inquiry highlighted "issues" and that "remedial actions" had been taken.

Fairfax has requested the report under the Official Information Act, but has been told it will not get a response to the request until late January.

Cameron said he had a copy of the report by Wellington-based Detective Superintendent Steve Vaughan.

"It confirms that management practices and procedures at Christchurch South were outstanding and amongst the highest-rated areas in the NZ Police," he said.

"There was no evidence of a failure by any of the management team at Christchurch South."

Cameron said his clients had put Marshall "on notice of imminent defamation action".

A police spokesman said the police were "aware of a threat of legal action and will assess any proceedings which are filed".

"As this matter may lead to civil court proceedings police are unable to discuss it any further at this time," he said.

Cameron said the officers had asked Marshall to make an "appropriate apology and retraction" over the statement, as well as comments about the station's management situation made by Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls to Newstalk ZB, "but he has elected not to make one", Cameron said.

"Police leaders have been content to let media believe there were 'leadership and operational' problems at the Christchurch South Station at the relevant time, and did so when their own inquiry had already established this to be completely false," Cameron said.

"It's hard to imagine a worse example of reprehensible conduct."

Cameron said the comments had damaged the senior police officers' relationships with their communities, local government and members of Parliament.

He was confident the defamation proceedings would "conclusively establish that not only were some of the department's statements false but also, they were known to be false when the department made them", he said.

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