29 Jun 2018

Police deputy commissioner 'unreservedly apologises' for Louise Nicholas remarks

4:46 pm on 29 June 2018

A high-ranking police officer has apologised for comments made several years ago in support of fellow officers accused of gang-raping a teenager in Rotorua in the 1980s.

Wally Haumaha

Superintendent Wally Haumaha. Photo: SUPPLIED

However, acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said he would be launching a full investigation into Wally Haumaha's promotion to deputy police commissioner.

The comments related to complainant Louise Nicholas, who now works as an adviser to police on sexual assault and was angered by Mr Haumaha's new role.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Mr Haumaha acknowledged the concerns expressed by Ms Nicholas and others about his remarks regarding the 2004 police investigation.

"It is important to say outright that I take responsibility for those comments, I deeply regret them, and I unreservedly apologise for the hurt and concern they have caused," he said.

"That does not reflect my view or the values I bring to the job every day.

"In the 14 years since those comments, and particularly through the changes following the 2007 Commission of Inquiry, I have reflected deeply and often on what it means to live the values that New Zealanders rightly expect from their police."

He recently met with Ms Nicholas to assure her of his commitment to the work the police has done as a result of the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into police handling of sexual assault investigations, which was instigated by her original complaint.

Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum, who worked with Mr Haumaha at the Rotorua police station in the 1980s and 1990s, were accused by Ms Nicholas in 2004 of raping her and violating her with a police baton.

They claimed the group sex with the teenager was consensual and were found not guilty at a 2006 trial.

The jury was unaware Shipton and Schollum were already in prison on other rape charges.

Her accusations also triggered an investigation into historic sexual assault complaints against police, Operation Austin, and also gave rise to the Commission of Inquiry, which led to recommendations for improving sexual assault investigations, creating systems for handling complaints about police, improving officers' ethics, behaviour and disciplinary systems, and improving policies and processes for handling sexual assault allegations.

Meanwhile, Mr Peters said he was unsure if the government was aware of Mr Haumaha's comments when he was offered the role.

"These allegations have been made. We're going to have a full investigation as to the process, as to its adequacy, as to whether or not we heard all the information we should have heard and ensure that the process was properly done," he said.

"We're not going to rush to judgement until we do."

Police Minister Stuart Nash said while he was was unaware of Mr Haumaha's comments, he did know Mr Haumaha had been interviewed during Operation Austin.

"The comments are deeply disappointing and are unacceptable," said Mr Nash.

"DC Haumaha has learned from that and has gone on to do substantial and worthwhile work to improve the safety of women and youth."