Police reinvestigating disgraced ex-MP Todd Barclay concluded in their final report there were “credible witnesses” and “reasonable grounds to suspect” he recorded a former employee, newly-released documents show.
The documents show Barclay’s repeated refusals to cooperate and the lengths investigators went to in order to determine whether there was enough evidence to prosecute him – including a look at whether he installed covert CCTV cameras to record his former staffer Glenys Dickson.
In June, Barclay announced he would step down as National’s MP for Clutha-Southland after Newsroom revealed his alleged clandestine taping of former staffer Glenys Dickson led to a secret payment from former Prime Minister John Key’s leader’s budget.
In October, police again ruled out charging Barclay, finding insufficient evidence and highlighting “speculation, hearsay and third party information”.
Files from the reopened police investigation into Barclay, obtained by Newsroom under the Official Information Act show police gave serious consideration to a report from Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper that sources had told him of a CCTV camera “surreptitiously planted in the MP’s office by a security firm”, instead of a dictaphone as originally reported.
Police spoke to Soper, who told them two separate confidential informants had passed the information on. He told them the informants were unwilling to speak with police as they did not want to take the matter any further.
Gore Detective Sergeant Greg Baird, who wrote the final report, spoke to an Invercargill-based security company on August 1 to see if they had completed any work or knew about a CCTV system being installed in Barclay’s office.
A company technician found an invoice for a door intercom and alarm system, but said “no reputable business in Gore would install any covert listening device”.
The police’s cyber crime unit also investigated the availability of “overt and covert” audiovisual recording devices, identifying a range of devices and showing internet printouts to Dickson to see if she could recognised any of them.
While there were some devices which matched the descriptions, she could not identify any of them as a surveillance device, and enquiries with local retailers in Gore found none recalled selling any devices to Barclay.
The police file also outlines investigators’ struggles to obtain information from Barclay, the Parliamentary Service and others regarding the allegations.
Detective Superintendent Peter Read called Parliamentary Service general manager David Stevenson seeking a number of different documents, including a copy of the confidential agreement following Dickson’s severance and contracts and invoices related to any building work carried out at his Gore electorate office.
While Stevenson originally agreed to supply the documents, in a later email he told Read that Parliamentary Service protocols meant building records for an electoral office could be obtained only with an MP’s consent, or via “some other lawful authority” such as a search warrant.
Read then asked other investigators to ask Barclay if he would consent to providing the building information, adding: “I don’t expect him to agree but we still need to ask.”
He also asked for a draft affidavit to be prepared for a search warrant if Barclay declined.
In a July 4 response to Hill, Barclay’s lawyer said the MP would “exercise his right to silence” and decline a request for an interview with police.
In a July 13 email, Read said Barclay’s lawyer had confirmed he would provide his consent with the documents police had requested from the Parliamentary Service.
However, in an email on July 31, Read said he had not heard back from Barclay’s lawyer “despite almost daily phone messages” asking them to provide him with a completed consent form.
In an email the same day, Barclay’s lawyer contacted Read to reverse his previous position, saying: “Mr Barclay does not consent to the release of these documents sought in the consent form. I am instructed that the documents are not his documents to authorise.”
Police ran into similar problems attempting to obtain the confidentiality agreement: in an October 18 email, Read said Dickson had initially agreed for her lawyer to hand it over, only for her lawyer to later demand a court order first “as she stated she had been employed by Parliamentary Services to represent Ms Dickson”.
The Parliamentary Service also declined a request to provide the agreement without a court order, while Barclay’s lawyer confirmed he didn’t have a copy of it.
Police also attempted to visit Barclay’s Gore electorate office, with his consent, “to look at the structure for any signs of overt or covert audio/visual devices”.
However, Barclay’s lawyer said the MP would not allow police to enter without a warrant.
In Baird’s final report to Read, he said while there was no direct evidence that Barclay had recorded Dickson’s private conversations there was “circumstantial evidence that provides reasonable grounds to suspect that a recording occurred”.
That included the deterioration in Dickson’s relationship with Barclay, a report from an unnamed Parliamentary Service employee that Barclay had told her he had a recording of Dickson “talking to people about him”, and National leader Bill English’s police statement in which he said Barclay had told him of a dictaphone recording.
However, a particular problem police faced was no actual recording was identified or recovered and police couldn’t identify or speak to anyone who heard it.
The report said further consideration would be given to whether there were sufficient grounds to apply for search warrants of: Barclay’s personal bank accounts; the National Party electorate office on Main St, Gore; and Parliamentary Service Wellington, to find records of work completed at the Gore office.
Baird was instructed not to recommend if Barclay should be charged in his report.