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Date:
5 April 2012
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Appointments — Independent Police Conduct Authority

[Sitting date: 05 April 2012. Volume:679;Page:1740. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]

Appointments

Independent Police Conduct Authority

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice) : I move, That, pursuant to sections 5 and 5A of the Independent Police Conduct Authority Act 1988 and section 32 of the Crown Entities Act 2004, this House recommends His Excellency the Governor-General appoint Judge Sir David James Carruthers KNZM as chairperson of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, for a term of five years from 16 April 2012. The function of the Independent Police Conduct Authority is to investigate complaints alleging any misconduct or neglect of duty by a member of the police or concerning any practice, policy, or procedure of the police affecting the complainant. The authority is also responsible for investigating any incident involving serious bodily harm or death notified to the authority by the Commissioner of Police.

Independent agencies such as the Independent Police Conduct Authority are critical to democracy in New Zealand. They contribute to our strong and independent justice system, and help to maintain high public confidence in our institutions. Section 5 of the Independent Police Conduct Authority Act prescribes that the authority consists of up to five members, appointed by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the House of Representatives. Section 5A requires that one member is to be appointed as the chairperson of the authority. That person must be a judge or a retired judge.

The authority has been ably chaired by Justice Lowell Goddard QC for the past 5 years, and I would like to acknowledge the fine work done by Justice Goddard during her term in office. There are currently three additional members of the authority. There also exists the possibility of a legal challenge being made to the High Court in relation to a report of the authority and, to that end, I believe it to be preferable for the chairperson to be from a different bench or to be a retired judge.

Judge Sir David Carruthers is a former Chief District Court Judge and former Principal Youth Court Judge. He was appointed a District Court judge in 1985. He has had an extensive and impressive judicial career. Sir David has been chairperson of the New Zealand Parole Board since 2005. I welcome the support of the parties in the House for this very important appointment.

CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) : The motion in respect of appointments to the Independent Police Conduct Authority is carefully worded. It refers, first of all, to sections 5 and 5A of that statute, the Independent Police Conduct Authority Act, and it does so because those provisions are carefully cast to make it clear that this is not an ordinary appointment. It is an appointment made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of this House. So unlike most of the statutory appointments that we see from day to day, this is not a case of a Minister making a recommendation to the Governor-General, but a case—in this independent Crown entity’s situation—of this House as a whole making that recommendation to His Excellency. That is why the wording of the motion is phrased the way it is. That is the first point that I want to make, and it always is worth repeating.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority is not a creature of the executive. It is a creature, primarily, of this legislature, because we all have the opportunity to contribute—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Order! Could I just advise members that there is a longstanding convention that members should not conduct conversations in the House unless it is necessary to do so and then only in a way so as not to disturb proceedings. So if people are leaving the Chamber, would they please show some courtesy to the member who is trying to address the business of the House.

CHARLES CHAUVEL: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Having made the point that the motion is carefully worded so as to respect the unique nature of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, I want to thank the Minister of Justice for her consultative efforts around the House and to acknowledge those. She has taken up that role on behalf of the House in order to come to a recommendation that we can make to the Governor-General about the successor to Justice Lowell Goddard.

It is informative to take a look at the wording of the statute, apart from the appointment provisions that I have referred to, because, of course, until 2007 the Independent Police Conduct Authority was the Police Complaints Authority, and the changes in 2007 were more than of nomenclature. At that time the Parliament ensured that the body had its own investigative staff and that it could actually deal with complaints about the way in which the police conducted themselves, without having to rely on the police themselves for that function. That was a very significant change, and it does bear repeating as we remind ourselves of what we are actually doing today.

We heard the Minister tell the House about her reason for taking the view, in proposing a fresh appointment to chair the authority, as to why it was not considered appropriate to propose an additional 5-year term for the Hon Justice Goddard. The reason was that Justice Goddard is a sitting judge of the High Court, and if there were ever a judicial review application brought in respect of an investigation or a decision of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, that application would be made in the first instance to the High Court itself.

Obviously a High Court judge might feel some lack of comfort in considering whether or not that judge should entertain an application for review of what was effectively the decision of another warranted High Court judge, so I accept the logic that was advanced, although I think it is worth noting for the record that there are cases where this Parliament has dealt with the issue of what to do in respect of applications for review when the reviewee is a High Court judge, or a High Court judge equivalent. In the Employment Relations Act, for example, applications for judicial review of Employment Court decisions, which are regarded in our system of precedence as broadly equivalent to those of the High Court, must be brought directly to the Court of Appeal. So there is an alternative mechanism that would be open to us as a legislature should we take the view that it was appropriate to continue to have the Independent Police Conduct Authority chaired by somebody of the stature of a High Court judge. We could actually provide in the statute, and in statutes like this, for any review applications to be made to the Court of Appeal directly. It might well be worth bearing in mind that precedent in future, because I myself think it would be appropriate to preserve the flexibility to have a High Court judge heading a body as important as the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

I just want to say a few words in praise of Justice Goddard. She is a very accomplished and well-regarded judge of the High Court. She graduated with her Bachelor of Laws from the University of Auckland in 1974, she was admitted to the Bar in 1975, and commenced practice on her own account as a barrister in 1977—one of the few women practising in that capacity in New Zealand at the time. Her trailblazing role in the law was further recognised in 1988, when she was appointed a Queen’s Counsel. Then she became, in 1992, Deputy Solicitor-General for New Zealand when Craig Thompson, as he then was, was appointed a District Court judge.

I worked with Justice Goddard at the Crown Law Office for a number of years. I enjoyed very much working with her as a colleague. As I said, she was a very able and well-regarded member of the staff of the office, and she held the warrant of Crown solicitor for Blenheim, as well as effectively supervising all the criminal appeal work done by the Crown in her time at the office. This is what fitted her so well for the role of chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority. She had been herself a prosecutor, she had held a warrant as a Crown solicitor, and she had supervised criminal appeal work. So she had worked closely with the police, knew how the system functioned, and also had the independence and the integrity that members at a senior level of the Bar are expected to bring to the position that she held. Her honour was appointed in 1995 to the High Court bench and she is thus the senior sitting High Court judge as far as service is concerned. I wish her well for her return to the bench and for any other roles that it might be thought appropriate for her to perform.

In conclusion I want to say a few words about Judge Sir David Carruthers. The judge is an excellent recommendation from this House to the Governor-General. He was appointed a District Court judge in 1985. At the same time he held Family Court and Youth Court warrants. He has been the Principal Youth Court Judge and the Chief District Court Judge. Prior to his appointment to the bench he was a family law specialist. He was well respected in the profession and well regarded. He was an appropriately genial and collegial leader of the courts where he held principal judge roles and I have every confidence that he will bring the right sorts of attributes to the role of chairing the Independent Police Conduct Authority, as Justice Goddard did in her time as chair.

The appointment of Judge Sir David Carruthers to the Independent Police Conduct Authority will leave a vacancy in the chairpersonship of the New Zealand Parole Board. I think it is appropriate, as we congratulate the judge on his pending elevation to the chairpersonship of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, that we ask the Minister to bear in mind the importance of the need to make sure that the Parole Board is well led, as it has been by Judge Carruthers in his time there. I join other parties in commending this motion to the House and wishing the judge well on his role in the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

DAVID CLENDON (Green) : Kia ora koutou. I am pleased to take a brief call to support this recommendation that Judge Sir David Carruthers be appointed chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority. As the Minister of Justice has pointed out, even a very brief resumé analysis of Sir David’s career indicates he is an entirely appropriate appointment to what is a very demanding and a very important role, and we are confident that he will perpetuate the integrity and the competence that have been displayed by his predecessor, Justice Goddard. Justice Goddard was the incumbent head of the former Police Complaints Authority at the time legislation was passed that restructured and re-formed that body into the Independent Police Conduct Authority that we know today.

The Greens are particularly pleased that the Independent Police Conduct Authority has demonstrated its worth, given that the party and, in particular, our former MP Nandor Tanczos at the time was a very powerful advocate for the establishment of a genuinely independent authority. It was very clear in the early 2000s, if not earlier, that the existing model was functionally and structurally simply not up to the task of meeting people’s reasonable expectations of seeing good, well-organised, and well-conducted investigations into the actions and incidents concerning the police and the use of their powers.

I believe that the Independent Police Conduct Authority has delivered on the expectation that it would improve the depth and quality of investigations, remembering, of course, that it is called in only for the most serious matters, where there are significant issues of public interest to be considered. I think it is to the credit of the Independent Police Conduct Authority under the leadership of Justice Goddard that it has, on occasion, exonerated police actions and has found no blame attached to police actions or decisions made in particular incidents, and on other occasions has been very forthright in highlighting any shortcomings in police actions. I recall a speech made by Nandor Tanczos at the time along the lines that the Independent Police Conduct Authority was to be a watchdog. There was an expectation that it would occasionally bare its teeth, and I believe that the Independent Police Conduct Authority has not resiled from doing that on occasion, but also has offered very useful and clear recommendations about changes. And it is evident that those recommendations have almost invariably been adopted and taken up. It has been a successful organisation, and I am sure that under Sir David’s leadership it will continue to be so.

I would like to take this opportunity just to comment on one issue of the practice of the Independent Police Conduct Authority. With all due respect, I would like to encourage the incoming chair and his board to consider change in a particular practice of the board to date. It has always been the practice of the board that the investigative teams it appoints to undertake investigations are drawn from police forces both in New Zealand and overseas, typically from Commonwealth countries. It is entirely sensible, of course, that the investigative officers do have significant depth and breadth of experience in policing matters, including firsthand policing experience. I would argue, however, that the work of the authority could be improved and enriched—enhanced, in fact—if the investigative teams also routinely included people from professions, from experiences, from backgrounds, and from disciplines other than front-line policing.

Police Commissioner Marshall has recently talked of effecting change in the culture of the New Zealand Police, particularly in relation to this new strategy around Prevention First, which—I would comment as an aside—is an approach that the Greens wholeheartedly support. This talk of culture from the commissioner recognises that police forces, in common with every other workforce and with every other workplace, do have a particular culture and an underlying set of shared assumptions, of beliefs, of values, and of principles. Given the uniqueness of police work, we think it is fair to suggest that the culture of police forces in countries from which our investigating officers have been drawn is sufficiently similar that they would have more points of similarity than they would have points of difference. Although that is undoubtedly a strength that enables a high degree of compatibility, it also potentially is a weakness. We believe that bringing into these teams individuals who come from different cultures and with different cultural frameworks would enhance and broaden the capacity of the authority to do a very broad and deep analysis of incidents, to bring in different sets of eyes and different perspectives from those who have come from a policing culture.

Having made those remarks, I will finish by simply again reiterating that we commend Justice Goddard on a job very well done, and we wish the incoming Sir David Carruthers every success. We are sure that he will continue the work that has been begun by his predecessor and will bring considerable regard to the authority. Thank you.

KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana) : Taloha ni, Mr Speaker. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to Government motion No. 1, which is that this House recommends that Judge Sir David Carruthers be appointed as the chairperson of the Independent Police Conduct Authority. I just want to pick up on a comment that my colleague Charles Chauvel made in that this is an appointment from the House, to ensure the integrity of the Independent Police Conduct Authority. I do also want to acknowledge, and Charles Chauvel has mentioned it on many occasions, the consultation that the Minister of Justice has had with this side of the House in order to come to the decision that Judge Carruthers should take over as chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

As the Minister pointed out, it is the role of the Independent Police Conduct Authority to investigate the conduct of the police, and also to investigate any incidents of serious harm or death that may come about as a result of the actions of the police. I guess, given that there was a release of a report this week into the fatal shooting in Auckland resulting in the death of Halatau Naitoko, we do remember the importance of the Independent Police Conduct Authority in making sure that all the measures and all the procedures in place with the police are followed as closely as possible.

I also want to take this opportunity to commend the work of Justice Lowell Goddard over her term as the chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority. I understand both from the police and the staff at the Independent Police Conduct Authority that she was very well respected, and the reports that she handed down over her time as the chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority are very well respected, as well.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority, of course, is very crucial in terms of making sure that there is public confidence in the police and ensuring that where the public question any actions taken by members of the police force, they are fully investigated. That is, as the Minister said, critical to the democracy that we live in. Also, given that in the last 10 or 12 years there have been some question marks around the culture of our police force, the Independent Police Conduct Authority is there to ensure that there is a culture change within the police. I do note that a significant culture change has happened with the police force over the last 7 to 10 years, and that the Independent Police Conduct Authority has gone a long way in making sure that work is carried out on the front line and at management level to ensure that that culture change does happen.

In terms of our new chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, again I just point out his achievements on the bench. He was appointed to the District Court as a judge, and with Family Court and Youth Court warrants, in 1985. In 1995 he was also made Principal Youth Court Judge and was also Chief District Court Judge from 2001 to 2005. As a number of speakers on this motion have commented, he is well regarded by the legal fraternity and that is why it has been recommended to the Governor-General that he should take this position as chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

As a number of other speakers have also commented, Justice Goddard has done a fantastic job in terms of her term at the Independent Police Conduct Authority. I do want to put on the record her last appearance before the Law and Order Committee just a couple of weeks ago. She said she was very proud of the work that she has done, and also the way that she has ensured the integrity of not just the police force and police actions but also the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the appointments that she has made. During the select committee meeting, there was some questioning around the number of former police officers who are employed by the Independent Police Conduct Authority to carry out investigations, but Justice Goddard also pointed out that she has brought a lot of overseas experience and a lot of overseas expertise into the Independent Police Conduct Authority to ensure not only that independence away from the New Zealand environment but also that there is overseas experience in a policing environment. She has certainly made sure that the “Independent” part of the title of the agency, which she has chaired for many, many years now, has been carried out.

As I was saying before, in terms of the confidence of the police force, there is just one thing I would like to say in terms of the report that was handed down this week into the fatal police shooting in Auckland in January 2009. There were reports that one of the victims, I guess you could say, who was caught in the crossfire in that incident was not interviewed by the Independent Police Conduct Authority during its investigation. Maybe just one thing that I would like to ensure that Judge Carruthers looks into when he becomes the chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority is that there is more involvement of those who are at the scene at the time of an incident, more investigation, and more communication with those people who are at the scene of the incident when things happen. I think it is a concern, certainly on this side of the House, that in that instance someone who was so close to the action was not actually interviewed as part of that process. His comments and his experience were just taken from the notes of the interviews that were carried out by the police force at the time. So maybe that is one message to Judge Carruthers as he is going forward. Maybe we could see more communication for those people who are intimately involved in some of these cases, and not necessarily just have their perspective taken from notes that are gathered during a police investigation.

Justice Goddard, of course, needs to be applauded for her work. I do not want to be too critical of that incident, because she has done good work over her term as the chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority. I do want to also note—I am not sure if this is appropriate but I will say it anyway—that during the financial review of the Independent Police Conduct Authority I understand it was said that the social club of the authority has a fully functioning ukulele band. I also understand that Justice Goddard has been at the forefront of making sure that the Independent Police Conduct Authority is a good place to work too, and that is obviously something that has been noted in the financial review questions that came through to the select committee. We do wish Judge Carruthers all the best in his new term as chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

It is not an easy job investigating and ensuring the conduct of our police force. I hope it does become an easier job. But we also do thank Justice Goddard for the work that she has done. It has ensured that the public confidence over the last 5 or 6 years in our police force, in our men and women on the front line, has increased somewhat. I think that the Independent Police Conduct Authority, in its investigation and in its ongoing work with our police force, has gone a long way to making sure that public confidence in our policemen and policewomen has increased. We wish Judge Carruthers all the best. We thank Justice Goddard very much for the work she has done, and we also support the recommendation in this motion that Judge Carruthers be the new chairperson of the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

  • Motion agreed to.