10 May 2021

Former police officer who stole $4000 will go unnamed

2:21 pm on 10 May 2021

A former police officer who stole $4000 handed in by a member of the public has been granted permanent name suppression.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The former officer appeared in the New Plymouth District Court today after completing police diversion.

The court heard the then 24-year-old was working at the New Plymouth watchhouse in December when the cash was handed in and they paid a reward to the person who brought it in.

The officer returned home with the money, but after discussing the situation with their grandparents had second thoughts, and confessed about the theft to a senior officer the following day.

Susan Hughes QC, who represented the former officer, said they were isolated at work and had unresolved psychological and emotional issues leading up to the offending.

"They were at a particularly low point when they took the money, but on realising the magnitude of what they had done and having consulted their grandparents they immediately took steps to remediate the situation."

Hughes said as a result of the police diversion the former officer had got the counselling they needed and resigned from a job they were not suited for and sought a fresh start.

"This offending needs to be seen in the context of a moment of madness almost immediately regretted."

She said the former officer was now unemployed and wanted to find a job to support themself and their son.

"Publication of their name would severely impact their prospects of rehabilitation and reintegration into the community."

Hughes said there would be no push to have their name published if the former officer had been employed elsewhere.

"This attitude singles police officers out in a way unfair and unjustly punitive ... if they had done what they did as an employee of a law firm or similar we would not be here talking about name suppression."

Crown prosecutor Jacob Bourke said the stigma of an offender having their name published faded with time and did not constitute extreme hardship.

"This is part of court proceedings, that when you are associated with criminal offending or when you admit to criminal offending there is a certain stigma that carries with it. So there will be a negative impact, but does it reach that extreme hardship threshold? The Crown says it does not."

Bourke said the breach of trust was an aggravating feature of the offending.

"Given the very public position they held there is a very high public interest in knowing that the police who are charged with protecting the community from the commissioning of crimes ... when a crime is committed by one of their own it necessarily has a higher public interest."

Judge Tony Greig, who withdrew a theft charge, said the former officer had a difficult background - some details of which were suppressed - and was fragile.

He said the fact police had dropped an earlier charge and offered diversion on the theft charge indicated there was something special about this case.

"I have over the last 30 or 40 years known of a number of cases where police watchhouse keepers have gone to prison for stealing much smaller sums of money than this, and I know that the police are hard on their own."

Judge Greig said he was satisfied that the former officer could not move town because of the joint custody of their child, and the effect publishing their name would have on future job prospects constituted extreme hardship and would put their rehabilitation at risk.

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