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NEWS > 02 March 2009

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Pressure on police alcohol sta

Police are coming under pressure to reassure the public that no double standards were applied in an investigation of a top officer who refused a breath test.

Some community group leaders have questioned whether Graham Thomas should be reinstated to his role as national prosecutions manager, which includes responsibility for prosecuting drink-drivers.

Mr Thomas refused a breath test after police followed him to his home in Churton Park, Wellington, in December when he was spotted driving erratically after leaving a police bar.

A community patrol report given to Johnsonville police reveals officers saw Mr Thomas parked outside a Johnsonville service station, where he told them he was "sleeping off" after drinking. His car was spotted again a few minutes later at the Johnsonville roundabout.

He is now on six months' "medical rehabilitation".

Labour law and order spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said that, because of Mr Thomas's high rank, Police Minister Judith Collins should ask for assurances that the investigation was carried out properly.

"This is no ordinary police officer. There's a higher issue, a higher level, because of the officer's position.

"I think it's doubly necessary to provide those reassurances, because obviously this officer would be involved in making decisions to prosecute members of the community [for drink-driving]."

A spokesman for Ms Collins said she could not comment as it was an employment issue and she had to respect the internal operations of police.

Police have refused to supply details of the investigation, saying there had been no written correspondence to Ms Collins, Commissioner Howard Broad or Mr Thomas about the incident.

Police human resources manager Wayne Annan said Mr Thomas was legally entitled to refuse a breath test, because he was on private property.

However, criminal lawyers have said many people would have complied, not knowing they were able to refuse.

AA motoring affairs manager Mike Noon agreed and said it would be questionable for Mr Thomas to be reinstated as national prosecutions manager.

"Many people ... wouldn't have understood that they could have refused. He knew that, and the public didn't. He was legally correct, but you have to question whether that demonstrates leadership, given the role he holds."

He was sure police would have looked at Mr Thomas's role, but he would ultimately be judged by the community. "The court of public opinion is going to decide."

Garth McVicar, spokesman for victims' rights lobby group Sensible Sentencing Trust, said Mr Thomas should resign from the Victim Support board and called him a terribly poor role model.

"If this man has integrity, he wouldn't have much option but to resign," Mr McVicar told the Sunday Star-Times.

Mr Thomas is refusing to comment.

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