The Police reports were finished on 1 March 2006. On 16 March 2006 the media suddenly realised that if charges are not laid by (arguably) the next day, Labour will be home free.
The next day the Police put out this press release.
Now I had been wondering over whether the Police hierarchy simply overlooked the deadline. It was mentioned many times by the Detective who did the S221 investigation, so surely it was not overlooked.
Well this e-mail from the Police Comms person makes it pretty clear with his reference to running out of time that they did overlook the time limit. The e-mail was done at 7.30 pm at night suggesting that after the publicity that day in the media, they scrambled to finalise their decisions and justifications in a public release.
Now amongst the media reports of the decision not to prosecute, the Police Acting Deputy Commissioner said that the Police had made recommendations to the Chief Electoral Office which would make things “tidier” next time.
The CEO had not received any such recommendation so wrote to the Police asking where they were on 20 March. The next day a meeting was held, described in the note below:
Nowhere is it better illustrated how badly the Police handled this case. All the way through they had been confusing the requirements of Section 221 and the Parliamentary rules. The CEO points out to them S221 is clear, the booklets put out to parties are clear and Crown Law also say the law is clear.
The Police then backtrack and say they meant the rules about parliamentary spending are unclear. This of course is not a matter for the CEO, the Electoral Act or the Police. That is a matter for the Parliamentary Service Commission and the Auditor-General.