Police minister's drink-drive confession

MAKING HIS MARK: Police Minister Michael Woodhouse in front of his police mugshot, taken with new Booze Bus Biometric technology introduced in Wellington.
MAKING HIS MARK: Police Minister Michael Woodhouse in front of his police mugshot, taken with new Booze Bus Biometric technology introduced in Wellington.

Prime Minister John Key says he is not concerned that Police Minister Michael Woodhouse has a past drink-driving conviction, and it was disclosed to National before he became an MP.

Woodhouse has owned up to a past drink-driving conviction during a wide-ranging interview about his new portfolio.

Asked if he had had any brushes with the law, Woodhouse revealed: "I have a conviction for driving with excess blood alcohol - it's 27 years old, I was 21."

He said: "You've asked, I can't say no . . . I suppose that's on the public record."

Key said Woodhouse was "very up-front ... to tell us about that".

"In the end very few people come to Parliament with a background of perfection. Some do, but most people have made the odd mistake in their life," Key said.

People with drink-driving convictions are not allowed to become police officers. Woodhouse was appointed police minister this month.

Key said the big challenge for MPs was to learn from such an error.

"He has learned from that mistake," Key said. It was stupid but he had not repeated it.

Woodhouse was asked in Parliament yesterday about Government moves to help identify drink-drivers, and replied: "We have made very good progress in reducing death and injury on our roads, but alcohol-related death and injury remain stubbornly high."

Last week he threw his support behind the introduction of the Booze Bus Biometrics system for verifying suspected drink-drivers' identities, and willingly had his mugshot and fingerprints taken at the launch in Wellington.

Prime Minister John Key's office confirmed last night that Woodhouse disclosed his conviction when applying to become a National Party candidate in 2008.

Woodhouse did not offer further details of the incident, but it has been reported that he was working for the BNZ about that time, before leaving in 1987 to play rugby in Britain.

Asked if he was now an upstanding MP, he said: "Certainly there's too many eyes to be getting into too much mischief."

In his interview, he also indicated he would not support an increase in motorway speed limits to 110kmh, nor did he back making the impending sex offender register open to the public.

He wanted to boost the number of women in senior police ranks, and stressed his stance against the routine arming of all officers.

He said he supported alternative options such as Tasers with cameras: "I think it will protect police officers from accusations of inappropriate use or overuse - or, potentially, it might reveal it."

He was "absolutely, emphatically" keen to lift the number of senior women officers: "The police force needs to look and sound and act like the public, and it doesn't at the moment, by and large."

He did not support making the Sex Offender Registry - to be introduced next year - publicly available.

"We're talking about a pretty powerful piece of information when it's collated in the way that it is. It's important to manage the risk of public safety, but it's also important that it not be used inappropriately, and I think we've struck that balance right. I'm more worried about irrational fear, rather than vigilante justice."

In response to Automobile Association calls to raise speed limits on the best roads to 110kmh, he said he did not feel the condition of motorways was consistent enough yet.

"We don't actually have that much road, across New Zealand's thousands of kilometres of the roading network, that will justify a 110kmh speed limit - perhaps only 50km or 60km across the whole country."

AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon agreed consistency was paramount, which could mean lowering some limits, such as the 100kmh on the Rimutaka Hill Road, and raising it in newer stretches, such as the Northern Gateway toll road between Auckland and Northland.

Responding to figures showing police were taking more than a year on average to solve burglary cases - and solving just 13 per cent of them - Woodhouse said burglaries were notoriously difficult to investigate, but resolution rates were a "valid concern" that he would discuss with Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

He also revealed that he and Bush were soon to face off in a police physical competency test.


Meanwhile in light of Woodhouse's revelation, Radio Live talk back host Duncan Garner has accused Woodhouse of not being upfront with him.
Garner had earlier asked him if he had any convictions or disclosed any to the police, when he met them.
"Not that was of interest to them, this morning," Woodhouse had said.
Woodhouse today avoided the media and did not respond to requests for an interview.



Justice Minister Amy Adams has also admitted to a previous driving-related brush with the law.

In a scheduled interview with The Dominion Post, Adams had no hesitation in confessing to a minor charge of careless use of a motor vehicle when she was a teenager.

"I crashed my sister's car - low-speed crash when the other car wasn't even damaged. I think from memory it was a $50 fine. That's pretty high-level."

Adams, who also holds the courts, broadcastiang and communications portfolios, has assumed the justice role after the resignation of Judith Collins, who stepped down after allegations raised in Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics.

The Dominion Post