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Simon Bradwell: No beating around the Bush on Hutton eulogy

opinion Simon Bradwell

By Simon Bradwell

Published: 2:00PM Thursday June 13, 2013 Source: ONE News

I don't normally find myself agreeing with Trevor Mallard, but the Labour firebrand does have a point when it comes to the eulogy given by deputy commissioner Mike Bush at the funeral for Bruce Hutton.

Hutton was the detective who a Royal Commission believed planted evidence that led to the unjust conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas for the murders of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe.

Hutton was never charged for the offence but the stigma of that finding never left him, in the eyes of the public anyway.

When Mike Bush spoke at this funeral, he made comments that angered Arthur Thomas.

Mallard has also seized on the comments as poor judgement, and he's used it as an opportunity to attack police minister Anne Tolley.

Mike Bush has repeated the line that his comments need to be judged in the context of a funeral, attended by Hutton's widow and children.

There's also been confusion over what comments were read from Hutton's record, and which were Mr Bush's own.

So what were the comments? Thanks to an audio recording, we know exactly what they are.

First, Bush makes it very clear that he is there on official police business.

He extends apologies for the absence of commissioner Peter Marshall, who was in Afghanistan at the time.

He also says: "Thank you for the invitation to come here and speak on behalf of New Zealand". Because the audio is not crystal clear, it's possible he said "New Zealand police". Either way, it's clear he is not speaking as Mike Bush, private citizen.

Mr Bush describes Hutton's career as 'long and distinguished". There's no doubt those are his own words.

He then reads through Hutton's service record, including a comment from a superior officer who wrote of Hutton (prior to the Thomas case) that he had "integrity beyond reproach".

It's been suggested that "integrity" comment was made by Mr Bush himself. It's not.

But whilst it's clearly another's officer's words, Mike Bush endorses them by saying it's "really appropriate" that he reads them.

In concluding the eulogy, Mike Bush refers to the accusations of planting evidence and pays this tribute: "It's a great tragedy and an irony that a man of such great character should have been subject to those accusations."

And that's all he calls them, "accusations". Despite them being the findings of a Royal Commission.

Mallard used that comment to attack Tolley in the House last month.

According to Hansard, he asked: "Does the Minister support the comments made in the eulogy to the late Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton by the Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush, including the comment that Inspector Hutton was a man of "great character"?"

Tolley replied: "I understand that those comments were read from Mr Hutton's service record, and that was an appropriate action to take at the man's funeral in front of his family and friends."

Clearly, listening to the audio shows that the "great character" comment was indeed Mr Bush's own, and not read from the service record.

Tolley was wrong, but I don't believe she misled the House. More on that later.

So Mallard does have the right to question the suitability of that comment, from our second-highest ranked officer.

Especially as police themselves are still reviewing the Crewe murder case. Should a senior cop be making such supportive comments of Hutton, when officers under him are still investigating the case?

That's pretty basic stuff; police trot that line out regularly when media want information about a case police are investigating.

Police shouldn't just have an open mind, they must be SEEN to have an open mind.

Does the rule apply when they're investigating one of their own.

And that leads to what I think is the most telling comment in the whole eulogy, one that has been largely overlooked.

Early on, Mike Bush tells the mourners: "You will know the police family never forgets its members, regardless of how long they have been retired".

The police family never forgets its members. That comment speaks volumes. Even a cop who was found to plant evidence is still a member of the police family.

What hope then for an open-minded review of the Crewe case?

I don't think you can attach any blame to Tolley, who may have been mistaken, and I believe answered honestly to the best of her knowledge.

Mallard says Mike Bush shouldn't have to resign over the comments, but they were inappropriate and Mr Bush should acknowledge the commission's findings.

To read more Simon Bradwell opinion click here