Politics

Why the police may have cause to launch a fresh probe into the Barclay-tapes affair

The story of Todd Barclay’s behaviour towards his electorate staff has become a lot more interesting, as new details about efforts to cover it up emerge. A crucial question, writes law professor Andrew Geddis, surrounds claims of pressure put on his former electorate agent to withdraw her complaint

Newsroom’s truly exceptional piece of investigative journalism into the saga of National’s Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay, his  former electorate agent Glenys Dickson, allegations of illegal secret recordings and revelations of a secret taxpayer-funded payout is well worth a read (and a donation).

The immediate lede is Dickson’s claim that Barclay used a dictaphone to record her converstations without her knowledge; a crime under the Crimes Act 1961, s.216B. Police subsequently investigated that matter – although Barclay refused to speak with them about it, despite earlier promising that “If they do contact me on any matter, then I will co-operate fully” – and decided not to bring charges. But there’s then a lot more in the story worth reading, including descriptions of Barclay’s approach to his electorate duties that make him appear to be National’s new Aaron Gilmore.

Glenys Dickson speaking to Mel Reid. Grab: Newsroom.co.nz

And buried in the middle of the story is this little excerpt:

Within weeks of laying her police complaint, Dickson says she spoke to a National Party board member.

“I was told if I didn’t withdraw the police complaint I could potentially take down the National Party, and there was an [implication] that if National didn’t have Barclay in Parliament they were one short to pass legislation.”

Dickson said she was also told that it would be difficult for her and her family if she had to appear in a high-profile court case.

“The board member explained to me if I withdrew my complaint I would be considered a hostile witness and the police would have not had a case.”

Now, let’s just note that this is only Dickson’s version of events – we should not treat it as gospel. There may well be another account of this conversation which differs markedly as to its content. If and when that account emerges, I will update this post to include it.

Southern men: Bill English and Todd Barclay. Photo: Facebook

But having read and internalised those cautionary words, let’s then move on to note the Crimes Act 1961, s.116:

116 Conspiring to defeat justice

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who conspires to obstruct, prevent, pervert, or defeat the course of justice in New Zealand or the course of justice in an overseas jurisdiction.

And then let’s consider R v Dewar (HC Hamilton CRI-2005-019-3213, 21 June 2007) at [38]–[39]:

An attempt to obstruct the course of justice may also occur where the defendant discourages a potential complainant from pursuing allegations of wrong-doing.

And then let’s imagine this scenario: a gang member makes an complaint to the police that another gang member has stolen some of her property. One of the gang’s leaders then comes to the complainant’s home and tells her that her complaint makes the gang look bad, that it’s causing friction between the membership and that if the accused gets convicted and jailed it will hurt the gang in its future battles with rival gangs … so she might want to withdraw the complaint as it would be difficult for her and her family if she doesn’t.

What do we think the police should do if they are made aware that such a conversation has taken place? And why does it change things if instead of a gang leader, we instead have a claim that a member of a political party board is involved?


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