Cook Islands Police: PM, MP Not Receiving ‘Preferential Treatment’

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Puna, Glassie being investigated for separate traffic accidents

By Emmanuel Samoglou

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 23, 2014) – Prime Minister Henry Puna and Atiu Member of Parliament Nandi Glassie did not receive preferential treatment, say police.

Both were recently under investigation in connection with road traffic incidents

"They were treated just like every other member of the community in similar cases," said Superintendent Aka Matapo of Cook Islands Police. "No preferential treatment was given because of their status."

Matapo was responding to a number of questions after pointed criticism from lawyer Norman George over the handling of the two cases.

He confirmed police have looked into both matters involving the top-level politicians, including an ongoing investigation into a collision involving PM Puna and a motorcyclist in Tutakimoa earlier this month.

"This investigation is being conducted just like any other crash," he said. "The decision on its progress will be determined by Police after the investigation is complete."

Glassie – who also allegedly collided with a motorcyclist in Tutakimoa – was the subject of a police investigation which Matapo said has been completed.

As a result, Glassie – a Cabinet Minister in the Puna-led Government - has been issued a "pre charge warning letter", he said, adding the "matter is now closed".

"The other party involved reported the crash to police. Cost of damages has been settled. No injuries were caused to anyone. The other party wrote a letter to police requesting for no further action to be taken as he was satisfied with what has been done," he said.

Matapo described the incident as on "... the lower end of the scale of careless driving,"

"Taking into consideration the full circumstances of the case, it was decided that the most appropriate course of action was to issue a pre charge warning against Minister Nandi instead of prosecution," he said.

"These processes are designed to provide people, normally first time offenders, with the opportunity to acknowledge the wrong they have done, remedy damages caused, learn from their mistakes and move on," said Matapo.

"Prosecution is not always the answer."

He said the decision to process a case with a pre charge warning is made in accordance with certain criteria being met, and that the decision not to prosecute Glassie was made strictly by police.

While Matapo said both incidents were not alcohol related, he confirmed Glassie was not given a breath test, as "... the matter was reported some time after the incident had happened".

Puna was eventually given a breath test at police headquarters, but not at the scene of the collision when police arrived, he said.

The motorcyclist struck by the PM was taken to the hospital, where the on-duty doctor was requested by police to take a blood sample as evidence.

Matapo said both politicians were "... very cooperative and followed procedures as required by police.

"At no time did the Prime Minister or Minister Glassie interfere with or influence the police with their investigations."

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