PM Puna ‘got no special treatment’

Monday October 19, 2015 Written by Published in Crime

Police Commissioner Maara Tetava is refuting claims the police gave special treatment to Prime Minister Henry Puna following a collision between the prime minister’s car and a motorcycle in October last year.

 

“I categorically refute the allegations made in print media and on radio that the police applied preferential treatment,” said Tetava in a statement.

“This is untrue. The Prime Minister was accorded the same treatment as any member of the public.”

The crash occurred on October 4 last year. A police patrol was in the vicinity at the time and was on scene within minutes of the crash, said Tetava.

As with every other accident, paramount to police and other emergency responders such as the ambulance service and health professionals, the fire service and fire-fighters, is the safety of people involved and also others using the road after the crash, he said.

But none of the people involved had shown visible signs of injuries, said Tetava.

As a precautionary measure, the ambulance service had been called to the scene and the motorcyclist transported to hospital for examination. He was later discharged without treatment, said Tetava.

“His blood alcohol level was also tested which produced negative results. He was interviewed and his version of events obtained.”

The Prime Minister, who was concerned for the motorcyclist, had followed the police and ambulance to hospital, saidTetava.

“He was interviewed and taken through the breathalyzer test as required by process and the law. This test also produced negative results.”

Evidence suggested the crash had been caused by a moment of inattention which was classified as careless driving, but at the lower end of the scale, the Police Commissioner said.

This charge had been considered, however, before the charge could be laid, the motorcyclist had written a letter to police expressing his wish to withdraw any pending charges against Puna.

The officer in charge of the case recommended that the most appropriate action to take was to issue a pre-charge warning, a system introduced by police in 2013 to deal with minor cases, Teteva said.

These were the diversion scheme and the pre-charge warning scheme widely used in New Zealand. Both provided opportunities for minor cases to be dealt with between police, the victim and the offender.

The investigation was completed in November 2014, the Police Commissioner said.

“My team did what they were supposed to do. Procedure was followed. Both parties were treated fairly and accorded the rights that they were entitled to.

“I am satisfied that my team did the right thing in this case and I stand by the decision and the actions taken by them.”

Despite that however, Tetava says a review of the accident file will be undertaken by an independent reviewer - an option normally considered following a complaint involving  police performance.

“This option was considered following a letter of complaint filed by the Leader of the Opposition a year after the crash.

“No new evidence was provided that was not already available to the investigators at the time of the investigation.”

Following renewed interest in the accident, the Cook Islands Police Service has come under criticism from a wide cross section of the community.      

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