Police career over for officer who stole cash

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 08/11/2012

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A Morrinsville police officer has lost his career after stealing cash from a wallet found by a member of the public.

Shaan Stevens, 29, had clocked up four years working as a constable for the police, mainly based at Morrinsville.

But yielding to the temptation to grab $200 to ease his financial burdens has seen his career crumble.

At a hearing in Hamilton District Court in August, Stevens admitted the theft from the wallet handed in to the Morrinsville police station on May 14.

His lawyer, Mike Curran, asked for a discharge without conviction and permanent suppression of all details regarding the case.

That was dismissed by Judge Merelina Burnett at the time, and Mr Curran immediately lodged an appeal.

That appeal was set to be heard in the High Court at Hamilton yesterday, but it was abandoned, thereby leaving the Waikato Times open to report the details.

The court heard Stevens had suffered a rugby injury and was on light duties at the station when the victim reported his lost wallet.

On May 14, about 11.30am, his wallet was handed in containing the $200 which Stevens took, recording just the wallet as found property.

When the victim picked it up, he realised the cash was gone and raised his concerns.

Police launched an internal investigation then Stevens admitted taking the money.

Mr Curran said his client acknowledged that his actions breached the police code of conduct and Stevens had made a "dreadful" decision.

However, it was tight finances that led to the theft, he said.

"There was a degree of looking for an easy way out of what was a tight financial situation for Stevens at the time." That had been compounded after suffering a $1500 theft from his Morrinsville rugby team's bus when they played in Te Awamutu, he said.

"Stevens has made the most gross error of judgment for a police officer to make."

In asking for diversion, Mr Curran said he'd dealt with two police officers already this year who had received diversion for other offences, one involving an officer who had pulled out in front of a car causing quite serious damage.

Mr Curran said publication would cause harm to Stevens' wife, a Waikato high school teacher, and was worried it could be used against her.

Police opposed both of Mr Curran's applications for discharge and name suppression.

Judge Burnett said "the circumstances are at the more serious end given the duties that Stevens was sworn to carry out."

Judge Burnett said the person who found the wallet would have handed it in to police expecting the money would also be returned to its owner.

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"I have been advised by Mr Curran that the amount involved is not at the most serious end - $200 - however, the circumstances of the offending are significant . . . suffice to say that a member of the public handed it in to police with the expectation of the entire community and police force behind him, that the money would returned to its rightful owner.

"That is the only reason that the person who found the money handed it in to the police station."

Waikato police district area commander Superintendent Win van der Velde said Stevens' behaviour was unacceptable.

'Internationally, NZ Police are recognised as maintaining the highest standards of integrity and professionalism and the public can be assured that any behaviour that brings this hard earned reputation into question will be vigorously investigated and where established, those responsible will be held to account, as was the situation in this case.

''The community must feel that they can rely on police to take safe custody of property that has been entrusted to them, with the expectation that police will undertake the necessary due diligence to identify and return that property to its rightful owner.''

Mr van der Velde said in his two years in the district, Stevens was the only member to face court proceedings as a result of criminal offending.

Along with the two given diversion, a third was discharged without conviction.

Stevens was convicted and discharged without penalty.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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