Cop who assaulted club patron awaits ruling

Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012

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An intoxicated off-duty police officer assaulted a woman who accused her of snorting drugs in a rugby club toilet cubicle, but may yet be discharged without conviction.

Hawke's Bay constable Mikayla Paul, 23, and friend Alanah White, 22, appeared in the Napier District Court yesterday to defend a charge of assault.

Judge Josephine Bouchier, who was unaware of Paul's occupation until the end of the hearing, found the charge proved. Paul's lawyer, Jonathan Krebs, applied for a discharge without conviction, and the judge will issue her decision in March.

Mr Krebs' application for interim name suppression was opposed by police, who said it was important the force was seen to hold people to account, regardless of their occupation.

The charge against White was not proved and was dismissed.

The victim, Lisa O'Connor, was in the women's toilets of the Napier Marist Old Boys clubrooms on the night of June 2 when she heard women speaking angrily in the disabled toilet cubicle. They were talking about "smacking someone over the head".

She also heard them snorting something and waited outside the cubicle to confront them. She said they became aggressive, denied snorting drugs and told her that if she said anything to anyone, they would smash her.

Later in the evening, club patrons got on a bus to go to the Thirsty Whale bar in Napier.

Several witnesses gave accounts of an altercation between Paul and Ms O'Connor on the bus, but Judge Bouchier favoured the evidence of bus driver Willy Walker, as others had been drinking.

Mr Walker told the court that Paul was the aggressor, and she had hold of Ms O'Connor's hair. He grabbed Paul and lifted her off the bus.

Paul and White got a ride into Napier with Kyle Walton, who did not know them but had been a DJ at the clubrooms.

Mr Walton told the court Paul was very intoxicated and it was his view that "there was something more at play than just alcohol".

Mr Krebs said Mr Walton was not an expert and his opinion should be inadmissible, but Judge Bouchier said Mr Walton had been around pubs, clubs and rave parties for 12 years and found his evidence admissible.

Mr Walton said Paul spoke about "getting the better of the other girl, that she grabbed her hair, and laid into her".

Judge Bouchier was shown photographs of Ms O'Connor's scalp with clumps of hair missing, and of bruises to her arms.

Mr Krebs said the conviction would have a significant effect on Paul's future.

She has two previous convictions while in the police force.

In February 2010 she was disqualified from driving after pleading guilty to a charge of careless driving.

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In November the same year she was sentenced to 60 hours' community work after pleading guilty to driving outside the limits of a limited licence.

Paul has been a police officer since mid-2008. She is on restricted duties and will be subject to an internal investigation.

- The Dominion Post

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