A woman who lied about being blackmailed by a senior Oamaru police officer ruined his career, a court has heard.
In August 2019, Elizabeth Joanna Pine, 36, made wide-ranging allegations about the detective — including that he detained her for seven hours and threatened to have her children taken from her — after he interviewed her as a witness to a driving incident.
A year later, the woman finally came clean.
It was all lies.
It was too late for the officer who, following a six-month internal investigation into the accusations, retired just weeks short of his 35th anniversary in the job.
The Otago Daily Times understands the detective, who spent 20 years in North Otago, had since moved to Australia.
“You ruined his career,” Judge John Macdonald told Pine in the Dunedin District Court this week.
“The victim … was acting merely in the course of his duty.”
Pine, who had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, a crime that can be met with up to seven years’ imprisonment.
Crown prosecutor Chris Bernhardt, however, did not argue for the defendant to be locked up.
Pine was sentenced to six months’ home detention.
The incident that sparked the fiasco took place in November 2018, when a woman went to police reporting that her partner drove his car directly at her in Hampden before swerving away at the last moment.
Pine was interviewed the following month and verified the woman’s version of events.
However, when she was summonsed to give evidence at the Oamaru District Court trial, she changed her story.
Pine claimed the detective had forced her into making the incriminating statement when she was on the back of a “five-day bender”, consuming methamphetamine and alcohol, and had not slept.
The officer allegedly used the woman’s children and her then partner, who was incarcerated at the time, as bargaining chips.
She was strong-armed into signing a prepared statement, Pine said, even though she could not read because of her intoxicated state.
An ensuing police investigation into the conduct of the experienced detective found Pine was at the station with him for three hours, rather than the seven she claimed.
Recorded phone calls she made to her partner in prison at the same time were also obtained in which she stressed she was clean of drugs.
However, by the time the detective was exonerated, police had dropped the original driving charge.
In that respect, Judge Macdonald said, Pine’s attempts to pervert the course of justice had worked.
“All this over some relatively minor traffic matter, really, where you had no direct involvement,” he said.
Police Southern investigations manager Detective Inspector Shona Low said the case had caused distress to several parties.
She hoped the result would “provide some comfort to those affected”.
Litany of lies
Nov 2018: A woman claims ex-partner drove dangerously in Hampden
Dec 2018: Pine makes signed statement for police corroborating that
Feb 2019: Man is charged with dangerous driving
Aug 2019: Pine is served with a summons to give evidence at trial, then claims she was blackmailed by police officer to make statement
Sept 2019: She elaborates on claims, making further allegations about detective, sparks six-month internal probe
Dec 2019: Officer involved strenuously denies misconduct, later retires
Aug 2020: Pine admits allegations were false Nov 2020: She is sentenced to six months’ home detention for perverting the course of justice
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