Don Brash has written to Police Commissioner Howard Broad outlining a list of concerns about the investigation which failed to lay charges for Labour’s over-spending.
This is an area I know more than a little about. If you go through my Electoral Act archives, you will find a very detailed analysis of the huge flaws and blunders the police made with their investigation. My conclusion was that it was either incompetence or cowardice.
This was not a marginal call. It was not a borderline case. It was a slam dunk. A prosecution would have taken ten minutes of court time. Does the pledge card influence people to support Labour? If so, then Labour have over-spent.
The Police did not make one or two minor mistakes with their investigation – they stuffed up almost every single aspect of it. They looked at wrong clauses, they used wrong definitions, they failed to gain necessary information, and right up until their announcement of no action they were displaying a fundamental ignorance of the law. Words fail me for how appalling the investigation was. My conclusion is that the Police should have the power to prosecute for electoral offences taken off them and handed over to the specialist enforcement agencies.
For the record their decision not to prosecute National over the GST error was also clearly wrong (I suspect they did so to balance up not prosecuting the other offences). National said it admitted responsibility for the error, and it should have gone to court for judgement and a fine.
As I said back in May, there have been other cases involving Labour Ministers – specifically Helen Clark, David Benson-Pope, Pete Hodgson, and David Parker. In those cases the decisions made not to prosecute, while debatable, were reasonable decisions to make. I have actually said they were on balance the right decisions. They were certainly decisions on which reasonable people could disagree.
This case is vastly different to those other cases. It was not a marginal call. The only issue for debate should have been whether to makes the charges illegal or corrupt practices.
If anyone wants to defend the adequacy of the Police investigation, I strongly suggest they read the 33 posts I made, and the linked police reports before they kneejerk conclude it should be defended. It really is an indefensible botched job.
If any media want some expert commentary on the issue, I am happy to provide it. I can almost quote the police reports from memory!
UPDATE: No Right Turn agrees there is legitimate course for complaint, and that the basic failure of the police to enforce the law calls the competence of our police into question. He rightly notes that little can now be done except to change the law, but it would help the police credibility if they acknowledged their investigation was sub-standard.
UPDATE2: Am on NewstalkZB at 6.10 commenting on the issue.