Officers 'likely to take out personal grievances'

2:39 pm on 14 August 2015

The lawyer for the three West Coast police staff who have withdrawn defamation action against their boss, says personal grievances are now likely.

Grant Cameron says defamation proceedings against Tasman District Commander, Superintendent Karyn Malthus, were discontinued on cost grounds.

Inspector John Canning, Senior Sergeant Allyson Ealam, and Senior Sergeant Phillip Barker claimed they were the victims of a "witch hunt" by Ms Malthus and launched a $1.5 million defamation case.

A police spokesperson at national headquarters said, this week, that police wrote to the lawyer for the employees, outlining the view that the claim was misconceived and should not proceed.

The three had been on paid leave since the end of May, after a dispute with police over proposed staffing changes in the region.

They claimed earlier that Ms Malthus made a series of comments to local media, that portrayed them as incompetent and having failed in their duties.

Solicitors alerted her on 5 June and 15 June that the printed comments were considered defamatory, but police responded that they denied the comments were slanderous.

Mr Cameron said investigations revealed employment issues before and after the alleged defamation.

Further information was now being sought before proceedings could be lodged with the Employment Relations Authority, but personal grievance action was likely to go ahead, he said.

"The defamation proceedings were discontinued, purely upon cost grounds. When police did not want to discuss resolution of the defamation proceedings, our clients had to look at bringing further proceedings in the Employment Court.

"As the employment issues - which underpin the statements at issue in the defamation proceedings - could not be easily merged into the High Court defamation proceedings, but the alleged defamation could be easily incorporated into the employment proceedings, it was plain that it was cheaper and more efficient for our clients to proceed with personal grievances under the Employment Relations Act," Mr Cameron said.

He said ERA proceedings had not yet be lodged.

They were waiting for further information from the Police Department before making a decision, but personal grievance action was likely to go ahead.