The stalker who harassed a Dunedin businessman for two and a half years can now be revealed as a police officer.
Constable Jeremy Fraser Buis, 39, was sentenced to 200 hours’ community work and ordered to pay the victim Danny Pryde $15,000 after he was found guilty of criminal harassment, threatening to do grievous-bodily harm and intentional damage following a judge-alone trial in March.
Southern district commander Superintendent Paul Basham confirmed yesterday the defendant had been suspended in February 2015 and an employment process was continuing.
Buis had been on paid leave for nearly two and a half years, which Mr Basham stressed was standard employment practice.
At sentencing, Judge Paul Kellar suppressed the man’s occupation at the request of defence lawyer Anne Stevens.
But yesterday, the ruling was successfully appealed in the High Court at Dunedin.
Justice David Gendall said the judge’s grounds for the suppression of man’s profession were unclear and he said there was “significant public interest” in the order being quashed.
“Ordering the suppression of Mr Buis’ occupation because he is a police officer undermines the principle that all members of society are equal under the law,” Justice Gendall said.
“Police are not entitled to special treatment.”
The news was welcomed by Mr Pryde, who had voiced his disappointment at the situation after sentencing in April.
“It’s more of a relief to know it is public. I don’t know why it was ever a secret,” he said. “I had to be very careful about what I said.”
Mr Pryde was quick to point out it was Buis, not the police, who wanted the profession kept under wraps.
The victim, who owns an engineering firm, had never met the defendant until June 14, 2012 when the man parked in a location that blocked an entrance to Pryde Engineering.
Buis’s car was ticketed at Mr Pryde’s request and it set in motion a bizarre, varied and prolonged campaign.
There were a slew of anonymous text messages, the victim’s contact details were plastered around a notorious gay hangout and Buis even created a fake homosexual dating account using photos from Mr Pryde’s work website.
The businessman described it as “a living hell” and in the midst of the harassment believed he was going to be killed.
Because of yesterday’s ruling, other evidence turned up by Invercargill officers tasked with running the case can be revealed.
During the trial, the court heard from Buis and two of his former colleagues who spoke about the pranks they pulled on each other.
“It was just a bit of banter-type thing that we had going,” one said.
He admitted wallpapering Buis’ police pigeon hole with post-it notes on which were drawn penises.
In his locker nearby, the officer had covered the inside with half-naked men, including Sonny Bill Williams.
There was also evidence of a chat on a messaging app between Buis and colleagues on which they shared a photo of Mr Pryde with phallic images drawn on.
“I guess it’s just boy chat. I was being stupid. It could be a way to de-stress from work after a hard day. We were just being idiots,” one of the participants said.
Mr Basham said it was not part of a wider problem.
“The behaviour reported on through the case is not reflective of the wider culture in the police in 2017,” he said.
Of the 700 staff in the region he said the vast majority acted professionally but “you have a few who occasionally let the side down”.
Mr Basham said there was a speak-up policy in place encouraging staff to report any adverse behaviour.
“Those conversations are happening regularly and I think we have a generation of staff coming through that are mindful about those issues,” he said.
Otago Daily Times