Speeding charges follow Helen Clark's rugby rush
November 12, 2004 - 3:17PM
Five police and a chauffeur in a motorcade that broke the speed limit to rush New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to a rugby match against Australia in July have been charged with dangerous driving.
The high speed motorcade tore through more than 200 km of the South Island countryside attracting 17 formal complaints to the police and caused a public outcry from people who said the prime minister should set an example.
At the time, the opposition ACT party's justice spokesperson Stephen Franks said Clark had to take full responsibility.
"She must have known her motorcade was screaming through the country - perhaps she thinks it should be normal to scatter peasants like a South American dictator," Franks said.
The prime minister denied she had ordered the motorcade to travel over the speed limit to get her to the airport before her plane to Wellington, where the All Blacks were playing the Wallabies, departed.
She said had no particular interest in rugby and had only gone to the July 17 Test in her capacity as the country's prime minister.
"If you left it to my choice as Helen Clark public citizen, I would have been at home reading a book," she said.
A police statement said Clark's civilian driver and five police driving vehicles that escorted her had been charged with dangerous driving.
Two police who were passengers are accused of being parties to the offence.
Two of the drivers face additional charges of following too close behind another vehicle, and one was also charged with careless driving.
Police said that the case was based on the assertion that the motorcade took 96 minutes to travel 205.6 km from Waimate to Christchurch airport, to catch a flight to Wellington.
This equates to 128.5 kph, well over New Zealand's open-road speed limit of 100 kph.
Police Association vice president Geoff Smith said the association would fully support the officers.
"The officers... are good cops that were simply doing what they thought was required of them," he said in a statement.
For the record, Miss Clark did make it to Wellington in time to see the All Blacks beat Australia 16-7 and retain the Bledisloe Cup.