Cribb case a low point for police

Last updated 05:00 17/03/2014

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It has taken nine years of delays heaped upon dishonesties for the wrongs done to Shane Cribb to be fully acknowledged.

The police are now claiming lessons learned. Hopefully so, albeit that in this case they have been slow learners indeed.

The wheels of justice didn't just turn slowly on Mr Cribb's behalf, they ran over him a couple of times too.

He was convicted in 2005 of causing a crash with a police car near Alexandra.

The charge was careless driving causing injury. Each week we read of more serious charges, and consequences, than that. But the reason this case has achieved such a level of infamy was that not only was the conviction unjust, the wrongdoers were police.

The 17-year-old driver was stitched up by the perjured evidence of the officer driving the police car, Neil Ford, helped by the willingness of the younger, investigating officer, Dairne Cassidy, to hide evidence.

Both are no longer in the police, and have themselves been convicted and sentenced. Mr Cribb has received an apology and compensation.

This was never a case where good policing finally prevailed over bad.

It was a member of the public, Steve Potter, who to his great credit took up his friend Mr Cribb's cause and did the job the professionals failed to, by properly exposing inconsistencies between the police case and the evidence at the scene and then going public with the new evidence.

Southern District commander Superintendent Andrew Coster says police accept that without the persistence of members of the public supporting Mr Cribb, police would not have investigated the case to uncover the truth.

Really, though, the truth was handed to them on a plate. The delay in fronting up to the unhappy reality of not just a botched investigation, but a corrupt one, has since become an issue in itself.

It took until 2010 before the corrective prosecutions of Ford and Cassidy had gone through, and only last week did the Independent Police Conduct Authority release its findings into a complaint over police handling of the investigation.

It was less ironic than miserably par for the course that the authority itself had to apologise for its own contribution to the overall delay, and issue an assurance it had since tidied up its own processes in that regard.

As expected, its finding included a catalogue of failings not only by the two officers but by the Southern District police allowing their criminal conduct to go undiscovered.

So wretched had this case become that the police hierarchy can look back at a finding of lack of adequate supervision and leadership, a failure to critically examine evidence and remedy deficiencies identified during the investigation . . . and still have cause for some relief.

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Because the question was asked as it had to be: did the cover-up go higher up? Here the Police Conduct Authority is emphatic that it did not.

Mr Cribb says he's "stoked" at the resolution. Good.

The police are now able to put the matter behind them, as they should be able to. They're better than this.

And if they've had this matter hanging over them for so very long, it's hardly anyone else's fault.

- The Southland Times

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