Hard News by Russell Brown

187

Bad men

I'm damned glad the judge chose to reveal the prior rape conviction of Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton in her comments yesterday. I'm not sure if this means there will be no more prosecutions - the scant information on the suppression orders that remain in place makes it hard to tell - but it was a relief to see it terminated.

I knew about the 2005 Mt Maunganui rape conviction, and I was hardly the only one. Assuming none of the jury in this case knew, I wonder how they felt when the judge dropped her bombshell.

So there were no convictions. I'm not surprised: proving beyond reasonable doubt a charge of this kind, with no DNA or other corroborating evidence, more than 20 years down the line, was never going to be easy.

But as in the Louise Nicholas case, what was not contested by the defence was damning enough. Brad Shipton, a serving policeman, found a 16 year-old girl drinking illegally at the local Cobb & Co. Did he act to ensure her safety? Inform her parents? Enforce the damn law? No. He started screwing her, and soon tried to get his mate Schollum in on the act.

In the Nicholas case, Shipton, Schollum and Rickards denied rape, but admitted using a girl of similar age - and similarly diminutive stature - for group sex. The historic rape claim could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt. But I suspect those of you with teenage daughters will have your own thoughts as to the fitness of such men for the responsibility of police duty.

Schollum and Shipton, who Rickards continued to describe yesterday as his "good friends", were, of course, convicted of the 1989 Mt Maunganui rape, where the MO was very similar to that alleged in the Nicholas case:

Shipton was the protagonist, she was restrained by handcuffs, she was violated by a baton, four to five men were involved and Schollum played the conciliatory "nice guy" role.

Of course, in that case, the complainant was a positively stately 20 years of age.

Bizarrely, Rickards, who wants his job back, proclaimed his mates' innocence in the Mt Maunganui case. Yet one of their co-defendants confirmed there was an incident in the course of pleading guilty to the lesser charge of abduction.

Rickards told the court last year that his relationship with Louise Nicholas (conducted while his wife and two kids were at home) was a "happy" and "normal sexual relationship". Apart from the part about him and his police buddies playing pass-the-teenager, presumably.

Ian Wishart isn't holding back. And again.

For the most notable display of blithering idiocy in the media, check out Willie Jackson's performance in part two of last night's Close Up. Whilst being careful not to directly endorse the theory put forward by Shipton's brother - that the government didn't want a Maori police commissioner - Jackson alleged a conspiracy against Rickards, and dismissed any ethical dimension by declaring that politicians were unethical too. Sainsbury's interview with Louise Nicholas is also worth watching.

There are stories about these three cops and their conduct in the 1980s: I've heard them from three people I would trust not to make things up. Stories aren't convictions, or even allegations. But I'm damned if I'll be having Clint Rickards as a senior cop again.

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You'll note today that there are now banners across both Public Address and Public Address System. They're cost-per-click ads from The Performance Network, and next week the space will be taken by a Vodafone campaign. There have been some design changes to accomodate the new ad inventory (and, just because they're like that, CactusLab have swiftly added Scoopit and Digg buttons to the bottom of every post on PA proper.)

Over the next few weeks, you'll see quite a lot more advertising on both sites, as part of a new joint sales arrangement we've negotiated with Scoop. I need regular agency advertising - because it's about time I properly made Public Address my job - and it may have annoying animations and Flash elements, because that's still what agency creative looks like. But I think it's important to continue to run advertising from closer to our reader community, and some in-house creative, and we'll keep on doing that.

Ideally, I'll be able to pay off my recent $10k investment in Public Address System fairly quickly, and be in a position to concentrate more and more on content for these sites. That's quite an exciting prospect.

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