Finally the Benson-Pope Police Report

After several days of leaks and spinning we now have the complete report, and thanks to Scoop it is online. The link is to the key documents but they also have the full file.

Key aspects I have noted are:

Tennis Ball Incident

* 27 students interviewed. Nine recall the incident, 16 can not remember it and three rebut it. The three are described as very supportive of DBP.
* The Police say the nine witnesses are independent, appear to be genuine and do not have an axe to grind
* In a later paragraph they say the evidence is strong and none of the witnesses appear to have any hidden agendas
* The complainant did not even know DBP was an MP when he was informed that DBP had denied the allegation. The info came to light not from him but from friends who recalled it
* The issue of him having put the ball is his mouth first makes more sense in context. He basically says he stuck the ball in a bit as a joke (I imagine just biting on it almost). The DBP pushed it in further and he took it out. Then DBP pushed it right back in again and then taped his hands to the desk so he wouldn’t remove it again

Hit Face Incident

* Complainant and one witness agree it happened, one witness refutes it
* The witness says DBP did hit or slap a student in the left jaw. The witness says that DBP was a good teacher and the school needed more like him, and he thought about bullshitting that it never happened (but that it did). He goes on to say he thinks NZ needs more politicians like DBP, and is clearly a fan, which make his statement the assault happened far more credible.
The complainant has said he doesn’t like the assault being used as a political issue before an election but that he is concerned DBP has denied it happened as MPs should tell the truth.
* The pupil who does not recall the assault says he think he would have remembered someone being hit, but doesn’t recall much about that school camp
* evidence not as strong as for tennis ball and would need to be put to jury for credibility to be established

Overall

* The Police conclude the witnesses for both incidents are credible and reliable
* The Police say the appropriate charge would have been assault under S1196 of the Crimes Act as DBP had authority and control over the pupils and that this would be a major aggravating factor taking it outside common assault
* The Police also cite DBP’s complete denial of the allegations as an aggravating factor
* That the complainants just wanted acknowledgement that the incidents occurred and an apology
*Benson-Pope denies the incidents ever happened, agreeing they would both be assault. He claims all parties have been put up to this by Rodney Hide (impressive that Rodney can get 11 people to perjure themselves)

DPF’S views

Firstly I think there is really no doubt the tennis ball incident happened. Nine independent witnesses is well beyond what you can normally get for any sort of investigation. As the Police say this is very strong evidence.

I had always been puzzled about why this incident only happened once, if it happened, but it now makes sense reading all the affidavits. As usual DBP threw the ball at a student, but this time he clowned about and stuck it lightly into his mouth. DBP probably latched on thinking this was suitable and pushed it in further. And then when the student removed it, he thought no he had the right idea at the beginning and as a sort of joke pushed it back in and taped his hands to the desk to stop it being removed.

Incidentally the portrayal of the complainant as being a bully is not supported by almost all his classmates. They all remember him as being cheeky, a talker and getting in trouble but not a bully. I can relate to this as I often got caned at school for being a talker but I was certainly not a bully (esp as I was tiny). It’s also clear that there was no political motivation behind the complainant, and he only came forward after it was denied in Parliament. He was totally unaware DBP was an MP up until then as he lived in Australia.

The hit to the face is less clear-cut. The other complainant again did not want to make an issue of that, was only annoyed it was denied. He didn’t like the fact it was being used politically. The witness who recalls it is a huge fan of DBP and seems very credible also. However the other witness does not recall it at all, and it is more likely to be something you would recall. Also the complainant says that everyone at camp was talking about it, yet no-one else (bar one) can recall being told about it at the time. I think something did happen, but it may not have been as severe as the complainant recollects in terms of causing bleeding etc.

As I have said previously, I believe the Police were correct in not prosecuting. The passage of time is relevant in this case, and the alleged offending was not at the high end of the scale. However I don’t believe anyone can read that entire Police file and not conclude that the tennis ball incident at a minimum did happen, contrary to what Benson-Pope said in Parliament and to the Police.

Now one could give DBP the benefit of the doubt and say perhaps he just doesn’t remember them, being actions of no consequence. However he doesn’t allow one to conclude this as he is adamant that the actions described are totally wrong and reprehensible and hence this is why he never would have done them.

DBP also constantly refers in his police interview to the fact that no complaint was laid at the time, hence it must not have happened. I think he places far too much reliance on this, from personal experience. When I was a Scout we had a Scout Leader whose behaviour towards us was sometimes, umm, inappropriate. Nothing too serious, and we all liked him, so we never thought to say anything at the time. It was only after a couple of years when the behaviour became shall we say more eccentric that we decided we should have a word to another adult. It is quite common for kids not to go running to authority figures when something wrong happens, if it is at the lower end of the scale.

Anyway so overall the Police have got it right. There is clearly a prima facie case, and the witnesses have significant credibility. Once again DBP could have made this all go away by simply not denying it outright in the House.

UPDATE: NZPA beat me to getting a summary out, with this story on Stuff. TVNZ has a story also.

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