10 Jul 2008

Police investigate broadcaster's assault on woman

3:20 pm on 10 July 2008

Police have launched a formal investigation into sports broadcaster Tony Veitch's public admission that he lashed out at his former partner.

Mr Veitch, who has stepped down from his presenting roles with Television New Zealand and Radio Sport following newspaper reports that he had assaulted a former partner, made the disclosure at a news conference in Auckland on Wednesday.

Police earlier said they would need either evidence or a complaint to open an investigation.

They have not yet received a formal assault complaint, but now say an officer had been assigned to look into the incident to determine what actions need to be undertaken.

Police will look at information in the public domain, but are not commenting on whether they will speak to Mr Veitch or his former partner.

A spokesperson for Mr Veitch says the broadcaster has not had any contact with police in relation to the incident. The spokesperson would not be drawn on whether the presenter will speak to police as part of their investigation.

During his statement on Wednesday, the presenter said he "lashed out" at Kristin Dunne-Powell after an argument at their Auckland home in 2006.

He said his relationship had just broken up, he was working seven days a week and was on medication.

Mr Veitch said he and Ms Dunne-Powell had a confidentiality agreement, which included "payment for loss of income and distress I caused her."

He finished by apologising not only to Ms Dunne-Powell and employers, but also to the public. His wife, Zoe Halford, stood beside him throughout his statement.

Criminal barrister Jonathan Krebs, of the Law Society, says it will be difficult for police to successfully lay assault charges against Mr Veitch, without a formal complaint.

Mr Krebs says the term "lashing out" does not necessarily mean assault and it will be challenging for police to investigate without formal statements from Mr Veitch or Ms Dunne-Powell.

He says he is disgusted that Mr Veitch is effectively being given a trial by media.

TVNZ under spotlight

TVNZ says it is aware of the police investigation, but it will not have an impact on its own review of the allegations. The Radio Network has not been available for comment.

Meanwhile, questions are being asked about how long TVNZ has known about the incident.

Brian Gardner, director of the National Network of Stopping Violence Services, says TVNZ is fronting a major anti-violence campaign so the company needs to send a message.

Media columnist John Drinnan says it would be unconscionable for the broadcaster to have known about the situation for some time, and not acted.

Employment lawyer Peter Cullen says both TVNZ and Mr Veitch are in impossible positions, and the issue will not go away.

Mr Cullen says it is particularly difficult as TVNZ has a charter, is partly state funded and is seen as having a leadership role.