Further to yesterday, my thoughts are:
1) The Police made the right decision not to prosecute
It is hard to disagree that given the combination of time lapsed and relatively low level of the alleged offending, that a prosecution would not serve the public interest. Worth noting however that a 20 year time lapse does not stop prosecutions for more serious crimes.
2) The Police are inconsistent
The Police prosecution of Shane Ardern over Myrtle the Tractor was a huge mistake. They persisted with this stupid prosecution until even the Judge basically said Piss off, and stop wasting my time with such a trivial matter. Kiwi Pundit highlights a trend in inconsistencies.
3) The Police do take inappropriate information into account
First of all, it simply is not the case that Ministers are treated no differently to anyone else. Senior Police are very very aware that charging a Minister (or MP) with a crime punishable by over two years jail will mean that Minister (or MP) will be automatically expelled from Parliament if found guilty, no matter what actual sentence is given.
In this particular case, the Police reference to the Minister’s high profile probably being why the matter surfaced the way it did is inappropriate, considering the Police were convinced the allegations were correct.
4) Benson-Pope refutes the Police findings
The Police have said they believe the allegations are correct and did happen. Benson-Pope in his press release says he still does not accept the allegations have substance, because the allegations were not made at the time.
While what Benson-Pope is nowhere near as serious as say sexual abuse, his general line of defence does not hold up in sexual abuse or rape cases, and nor should it here.
Benson-Pope also distorts the Police findings by saying the Police has found the allegations warrant no further action. He fails to acknowledge he did anything at all wrong, and that the Police did find they believe he broke the law.
Even the PM sort of apologised for Paintergate in that she acknowledge what happened and said she won’t do it again. Benson-Pope is showing a nasty side by continuing to deny this. Perhaps he should ask to be charged so he can test his denials in court?
5) The PM’s response is somewhat inappropriate
The PM is quoted in the NZ Herald as saying she welcomed the decision. She should not welcome the fact that the Police have said a Minister of the Crown did the things his former pupils accuse him of.
Having said that, I don’t regard Benson-Pope’s behaviour 22 years ago as grounds for dismissal from his Ministerial roles, now he no longer has education. As Rodney Hide said months ago though, Benson-Pope could never again be credible as Schools Minister. This has probably also killed off his chances of succeeding Clark.
6) Wilson should refer Benson-Pope to the Privileges Committee
If rumour is correct, no less than 19 former pupils have testified that the behaviour Benson-Pope denied (or refuted) in Parliament, did actually happen. If that does not qualify for a referral to the Privileges Committee, I don’t know what could. The release of the full Police report will aid any decision making by the Speaker.
The Privileges Committee has 13 members on it, with the composition being:
Maori 1 (Hone Harawira – they do have a sense of humour)
NZ First 1
Labour has only 4 out of 13 MPs, so Wilson will be under massive pressure from Labour not to refer the issue, knowing if they find he lied to Parliament, he might have to resign as an MP and trigger a by-election.
But if Wilson does not refer it, her credibility with the Opposition, and the public, could be seriously dented.