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Police sting: Eke pub stays open

Emily Norman

[email protected]

Pints will continue to flow at The Eketahuna Inn after an attempt by police to suspend the pub’s liquor sale licences failed.

A police Controlled Purchase Operation, deemed by a ruling authority to have been inappropriately conducted, resulted in pub owner Mike Shale selling alcohol to two 17-year-old volunteers on December 10, 2015.

Now, more than a year after the incident, the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority has decided not to strip Mr Shale of his manager’s licence and the pub’s on-licence, citing “concerns about the appropriateness” of police actions in the sting.

The Authority’s summary states that just after 2pm on Thursday, December 10, 2015, two females entered the Eketahuna Inn and approached the bar, but there were no staff present.

After the volunteer minors waited a few minutes, Police Senior Constable Karl Williams entered the premises, found Mr Shale, who was fixing a television set in the accommodation block, and told him there were two people at the bar waiting for service.

When Mr Shale arrived at the bar, he did not ask for any identification of the minors before selling them two gin and tonic RTDs.

The Authority said it was concerning that, as part of the controlled purchase operation, the police officer had left the bar area and proceeded through the dining area and two sets of doors to find Mr Shale.

“…The Authority has concerns about the appropriateness of the applicant [police] actions in seeking out the respondent as he did, and does not consider that to be best practice in a controlled purchase operation.”

Mr Shale’s submission to the Authority said the licence suspension application should be dismissed because “the police officer was actively engaged in the controlled purchase operation and significantly contributed to the deception that led to the sale”.

There was a delay of six months between the date of the controlled purchase operation, and the licence suspension application being filed with the Authority.

The policy of the New Zealand Police is that Controlled Purchase Operation failures are reported to the Authority within one month of the offence being detected.

The reason for the undue delay was not explained in the decision.

Prior to this incident, and with a history in the industry spanning more than 40 years, Mr Shale had not come to the attention of the Authority.

At the time of the incident, he had only recently reclaimed the Eketahuna Inn after what was previously dubbed “a bit of a long, drawn-out saga” where the pub’s prior manager had failed to pay contractors and staff.

The Authority took this into account in the hearing process, citing Mr Shale had been “trying to get a failing business back into operation”.

Mr Shale could not be reached for comment.


Controlled Purchase Operations (CPOs) are a tactic used by police to test the compliance level of licensees relating to the sale of alcohol to people under the purchase age (under the age of 18 years)

CPOs are conducted using volunteers between the age of 15 and 17. Under supervision, the volunteer enters a licensed premises and attempts to purchase alcohol without identification

If alcohol is sold to the volunteer the licensee, duty manager and staff member selling may be liable to prosecution. 


  1. In criminal law, entrapment is a practice whereby a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offence that the person would have otherwise been unlikely to commit.
    R18 bar’s, with security checking ids plus staff checking ids is a situation where the staff is unlikey to commit an underage service offence. It it always possible for someone to slip through the gap especially when very busy or dealing with trouble. If the bar has good systems in place I feel that is all the police can expect and this kind of entrapment is non productive and creates ill feeling between parties that need to work together

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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