Federated Farmers Otago executive member Andrew Paterson is sharply critical of last week’s Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report into alleged poaching by police officers, saying the original incident and investigation “stinks of a double standard”.
Federated Farmers was one of four groups or individuals that complained to the IPCA about the police handling of the alleged poaching, which involved two off-duty Christchurch officers, Senior Constables Gary Donnelly and Dougal Adams.
The officers had been seen spotlighting on to a Central Otago farm on January 21, 2016 and admitted spotlighting on Department of Conservation (Doc) land without a permit, but the attending Central Otago officers did not investigate the incident properly or understand the law about illegal hunting.
Mr Paterson, who owns Matakanui Station, said the IPCA report was disappointing and had set a precedent which meant it could now be difficult for farmers and local police to know where they stood when it came to complaints of illegal hunting.
The report found there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the Christchurch officers, but that the decision not to prosecute them was “reasonable and justifiable on public interest grounds”.
Mr Paterson said the report had focused almost entirely on the police investigation into the incident, and made light of the fact that there had been sufficient evidence to prosecute the Christchurch officers.
“The report focuses on the investigation, and not that the officers actually did something illegal . . . at the end of the day it still smells of them [the Christchurch officers] being given preferential treatment . . . essentially they let the police [Christchurch] officers off with just a warning . . . they [police and IPCA] should have thrown the book at them [Christchurch officers].”
Mr Paterson said Central Otago farmers he had spoken to were angry and frustrated about the report. Federated Farmers would have a debrief and discuss the report, but there was “nothing else we can do”.
However, he still praised the work of local officers trying to tackle illegal hunting, and encouraged farmers to phone police if they suspected poaching.
“I urge farmers to still contact police if they think something is going on. I’ll still pick up the phone if I have someone I’m suspicious of.”