27 Mar 2012

No charges over teapot tape

5:52 am on 27 March 2012

Police have decided against laying charges in the so-called teapot tape investigation.

Prime Minister John Key complained to police during last year's election campaign, about the secret taping of a conversation he had with ACT candidate John Banks at a cafe in the Epsom electorate on 11 November last year.


The meeting was widely seen as Mr Key endorsing Mr Banks in the electorate, which Mr Banks went on to win.

Their conversation was recorded on a recording device in a small bag left by freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose on the cafe table.

Police say it is clear Mr Ambrose's actions were unlawful, but they will not prosecute, and instead will issue him with a warning.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said the recording of the conversation was found to be reckless and deliberate, but it was not in the public interest to prosecute Mr Ambrose.

"The investigation reached the view that at the very least it was reckless, and it was, in the view of the investigators, more likely deliberate."

He says police also took into account a letter of regret Mr Ambrose wrote to the Prime Minister, who made the complaint, and John Banks.


PM welcomes decision

The Prime Minister said on Monday in the light of Mr Ambrose's letter, he told the Crown Solicitor he did not believe a prosecution was necessary.

Mr Key says he welcomes the decision not to lay charges. He says that decision and the letter from Mr Ambrose allows all concerned to move on.

Earlier, before the police announcement, he said: "I haven't had any discussion with the police. I have had a discussion with the Crown prosecutor and that's because I'm a victim, if you like, in this alleged crime.

"It's important from that perspective that my views were known, so I had to have a discussion with the Crown prosecutor ..."

Mr Banks says he is glad police have decided not to prosecute.

"... I'm very happy on the face value of this to give the benefit of the doubt to Mr Ambrose, to accept his letter of regret and to move on, because I am sure it has occupied his mind every day for so many months. It hasn't occupied my mind at all."

Not enough evidence - lawyer

His lawyer Ron Mansfield says Mr Ambrose is relieved he will not be charged, but does not agree that he committed an offence.

Mr Mansfield says told Checkpoint that if police actually had evidence of an offence, they would have prosecuted.

"I think it pleases the Prime Minister, and it also means that they don't have to progress with the prosecution and fail in that effort, because in my view that's what would have occurred."

Mr Ambrose insists the conversation was recorded by mistake.

A lawyer who is a former ACT MP says he would have liked a prosecution, to see the case tested in court.

Steven Franks says it would be useful to see if the courts shared the view of police, and of Mr Key and Mr Banks.

The complaint led to four media organisations, including Radio New Zealand, being investigated and a High Court application.