Stuart Nash back under fire: Solicitor-General considered charging minister over 2020 cop killer comments

It's been revealed that under-fire minister Stuart Nash has been in trouble before for commenting on police cases.

The Solicitor-General considered charging the minister in 2020 with contempt for saying he hoped the killer of police officer Matthew Hunt spent a long time in jail.

There's pressure mounting on the Prime Minister to boot him out of Cabinet altogether.

At the Gisborne Port on Thursday were a lot of ships and a minister confident he wasn't about to walk the plank.

"The Prime Minister's made it very clear to me if I stuff up like this again then I'm gone. I will work incredibly hard to build back the trust of the Prime Minister and the country and people will judge me on that."

But there are fresh revelations that Nash had stuffed up before. 

In 2020, after Eli Epiha was arrested for the killing of police officer Matthew Hunt, Nash said on Newstalk ZB: "Let's hope that this guy has many years in jail to contemplate what he has done."

The Solicitor-General considered prosecuting Nash and charging him with contempt.

Documents released on Thursday afternoon said though she didn't prosecute, that does not mean that she condoned his comments.

She recommended to the Attorney-General that he speak to Minister Nash directly to convey that his comments were unacceptable and remind him not to make public comments on cases before the courts.

The Attorney-General is Minister David Parker. He told off Nash.

"It's wrong to make comments about what should happen at sentencing in respect of someone who has not yet been sentenced," Parker on Thursday said he told Nash. 

Parker says Nash's mistake on Wednesday - which he lost his police portfolio for - was different.

"It's slightly different to the latest event. But it was wrong."

Nash resigned on Wednesday after admitting to speaking to the Police Commissioner about appealing a court judgement. 

"What I did is I phoned the Commissioner of Police. And there's a perception that I asked him to do something that I'm not allowed to do and I criticised the judiciary," Nash said on Thursday. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Nash is a "hard-working minister who's made a mistake". 

"He's owned the mistake. I'm confident that he won't make that mistake again."

That was this afternoon, before revelations of Nash's earlier rebuke.

On Thursday evening, the Prime Minister confirmed the Attorney-General "was asked by the Solicitor-General to speak to Minister Nash to convey that his comments were unacceptable".

"The Attorney-General did that and the Solicitor-General considered the matter resolved to her satisfaction. This was in the past," Hipkins said.

"Minister Nash has already lost his prized Police portfolio and knows he’s on notice over any future serious errors of judgment."

But even before that there were calls that Nash shouldn't just lose the Police portfolio, but lose his seat at the Cabinet table altogether.

"The Prime Minister isn't just soft on crime, he's soft on ministers too," said National deputy leader Nicola Willis. 

"Chris Hipkins thinks if he's punished that's okay. The real question is, is he capable and trustworthy enough to be a minister?" said ACT leader David Seymour. 

"I got it wrong. I admit that. There's nothing else to say, I got it wrong. And as a consequence of that I paid the price," Nash said. 

But did he pay the price though?

Newshub has obtained a naughty list of every other Cabinet minister who's been punished in the last decade, including David Clark, Judith Collins, Maurice Williamson, and Nick Smith. All lost their portfolio and were booted out of Cabinet, except Nash.

"He's broken the Cabinet manual and the accepted standard for several Governments is when you do that, you're out," said Willis. 

Hipkins has confidence Nash will fulfil the other roles he still has.

"I am confident he won't repeat the mistake."

But a mistake he appears to have already made twice.

Amelia Wade Analysis

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says Stuart Nash’s comments were dealt with and this is now in the past.

"Minister Nash has already lost his prized Police portfolio and knows he's on notice over any future serious errors of judgment."

Newshub understands Hipkins was not aware of this earlier rebuke when he reappointed Nash as Police Minister 44 days ago and he wasn't told on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister should be fuming. There should be no surprises. This is humiliating for the Government and it's hard to see how Nash can remain in Cabinet.