A South Auckland police officer was caught having a sexually inappropriate online relationship with a young teenage girl in Texas – and he has lost a bid to keep his name and the details of the case permanently suppressed.
Gavin Giles, 47, was sentenced this morning in the Auckland District Court after pleading guilty to a charge of indecent communication with a person under 16.
He left the police soon after the charges were laid.
Judge David Sharp sentenced Giles to eight months’ home detention.
Giles was granted interim name suppression when he first appeared in the Papakura District Court.
After he admitted the charge he applied for permanent name suppression.
But Judge Sharp declined that application, meaning the Herald can now publish the full details of his offending.
Giles was working as a constable based at Papakura when he was arrested last year.
He is also well known in rugby circles as a former lock for Counties Manukau and more
recently as coach of the Papakura premier team.
Following his arrest Giles resigned from police.
Grooming via Instagram – Giles’ prolonged offending
The offending began in May 2017 when Giles connected with the girl through social media app Instagram.
He was 46 at the time and the girl was just 13.
Judge Sharp said the girl was “troubled” and had mental health issues including bipolar and borderline personality disorder.
Giles was open about the fact he was a police officer and his Instagram profile had a photograph of him in uniform.
Judge Sharp said Giles established the girl’s age in the “initial stage” of the online relationship and “acknowledged she was young”.
He told her she was “beautiful” and they chatted every day for the first month.
Then Giles and the girl – who has statutory name suppression because she is the victim of
a sexual crime – started to communicate through Snapchat.
Snapchat is an app which allows users to send photos and videos to contacts.
The content can be a maximum of 10 seconds long and is deleted once it has been viewed by the recipient.
They also engaged in video chats.
He told her to send photographs of herself and she complied – providing images of herself in a bra then a bikini.
She later sent photographs of her breasts and buttocks.
In return, Giles sent her “indecent” photos of himself.
He also made explicit comments, said he loved her and that he would assist her to travel to New Zealand to meet him once she turned 18.
The girl was also having indecent communications with a number of other men and when police in Texas started to investigate that – they found out about her relationship with Giles.
They passed the information on to police here and Giles was charged soon after.
Starting point – prison
Judge Sharp set a starting point of an 18 month prison sentence for Giles.
The disgraced former cop reeled slightly at the suggestion.
Supported in court by his wife, he looked shocked that prison was being suggested.
Judge Sharp said there were no mitigating circumstances in Giles’ favour and plenty of aggravating circumstances.
He gave him a slight discount for his early guilty plea and for the fact he had no previous convictions and “good character”.
The end sentence of 12 months was then converted to home detention.
Giles was also placed on the Child Sex Offenders’ register.
Judge Sharp said he had to “denounce and deter” Giles’ offending and show that there were “severe repercussions” for offending like his.
He said the victim was vulnerable – not just because of her age – and Giles’ communication with her was “unacceptable”.
“It was ongoing and escalating conduct,” he said.
“It became more and more pernicious as time went on.
“It was premeditated, involved contemplated behaviour – the behaviour had an aspect of grooming and sexual predator behaviour.
“There was a significant psychological power imbalance in your favour.”
Judge Sharp said Giles had “expressed remorse” but suggested that the victim was not accurate in her recollection of their relationship.
A video interview of the victim speaking to police have been provided to the judge and he said while the girl may not have gotten every detail right – the “basic aspect” of his offending was “not in question”.
“There are troubling aspects,” said Judge Sharp.
“Your failure to understand yourself why you got involved in something like this – and your non-acceptance that this is indicative of a problem that you have.”
The fight for name suppression
Until today’s sentencing Giles’ name and all details of the case had been suppressed.
In an earlier submission lawyer Cherie Hainsworth-Powrie told the court that Giles would suffer “extreme hardship” if his name and details were published.
She alluded to his “fragile mental wellbeing state” and said her client’s right to privacy outweighed any public interest in the case.
“We submit that it is inappropriate that he is effectively tried twice – once in relation to the charge in a court of law and then again in the community, who have no knowledge of the intricacies of this matter and the consequences that such publicity could bring,” she stated in submissions filed to the court before sentencing.
Further, she claimed there was no suggestion the community needed protecting from Giles – so there was no reason the Herald should be reporting on the case.
Hainsworth-Powrie tried to block the newspaper from accessing court documents – even demanding the court not disclose the initial reasons name suppression was granted.
The Herald strongly opposed Giles’ application, stating the case was a matter of high public interest given the offender’s role as a police officer at the time of his arrest.
It submitted that as a constable, Giles was required to follow the police code of conduct which states “we do not tolerate or accept behaviour, by either the public or our colleagues that breaks laws or compromises safety.”
The Herald submitted that it was fundamental that officers conduct themselves in accordance with police codes and the law to assist in ensuring public confidence and trust in the New Zealand policing system
And, that there would be an extremely high level of public interest in this case given the fact Giles was trusted by the police to uphold the law, and conduct himself in such a way as to uphold the values of the organisation.
“Police engender trust of the public,” said Herald legal counsel Ashleigh Cropp in submissions.
“The fact that the victim in this case is not a New Zealander does not mitigate the conduct of Mr Giles.
“It is submitted that suppression cannot be justified in the face of the presumption in favour of open justice, particularly given the nature of the charges in this case, and the fact that Mr Giles has pleaded guilty to this.
“Mr Giles had pleaded guilty to a charge whereby he will have to accept the embarrassment and damage to his reputation for committing such an offence.”
Judge Sharp today declined any suppression for Giles, after reading affidavits from his wife and daughter about the hardship they would suffer if he was named.
He said their hardship was “obvious” but a natural consequence of Giles’ offending.
He said Giles had not me the threshold for hardship and suppression could not continue.
“Your behaviour impacts on other police,” Judge Sharp told Giles.
“Your behaviour also involved the use of some of the power and authority contained in that (police) uniform.
“That is something that is part of the offending.”
Dirty cop – the New Zealand Police respond
Counties Manukau District Commander Superintendent Jill Rogers acknowledged Giles’ offending and sentence.
She confirmed he had been stood down from duties in late June 2018 as local police began to investigate him.
“He resigned from Police on 22 August 2018 and pleaded guilty to the charge the following day in the Auckland District Court,” Rogers said.
“Police have more than 12,000 sworn and non-sworn staff members working hard across New Zealand to keep our communities safe, and it is incredibly disappointing to us that this one, now former officer was involved in this serious and disturbing offending.
“It is unacceptable for any person to take advantage of a young person in this way.
“Our community rightly expects very high standards from police and I expect the same high standards from my staff.
“I hope today’s sentencing sends a clear message that police will act quickly on information and hold any person identified in engaging in this predatory behaviour to account.
“This incident does not however reflect all of our officers who every day put their lives on the line as they go out to serve and protect our communities and who will be equally shocked and appalled by this incident.”
Police referred this matter to the Independent Police Conduct Authority and will not be making any further comment.