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No Sentence or Sensibility

By Steven | June 5, 2008

I’m not sure the implications of this extraordinary Dominion Post story have been explored quite enough:

The practice of offering rewards in murder cases is under review after the defence in the Foreman trial used the proposed payout to undermine the Crown’s star witness.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust was set to pay $50,000 to Donna Kingi if Murray Foreman was convicted of the murder of Hawke’s Bay farmer Jack Nicholas, but Mr Foreman’s lawyer, Bruce Squire, QC, said Ms Kingi was motivated only by money and discredited her evidence.

Mr Foreman was acquitted on Wednesday, and trust spokesman Garth McVicar said it was unlikely rewards for information leading to conviction would be offered in future.

Memo to Garth: good plan. Quite apart from handing the defence the witness’s head on a platter, the reward is probably a contempt of court. It creates a real risk of influencing the evidence of a witness. Fair to say, many witnesses might manage a surprising clarity of recall of incriminating evidence if fifty grand is riding on the outcome.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust: committing crimes so the criminals can get away with them.

(I know, I know… that last sentence is cute, but I need to note that I didn’t follow the Foreman trial closely enough to have any idea of whether it’s fair to say that he got away with murder). 

Topics: Contempt of Court | 44 Comments »

44 Responses to “No Sentence or Sensibility”

  1. Will de Cleene Says:
    June 5th, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    It certainly is a novel variation on performance pay.

  2. ross Says:
    June 11th, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Steven

    You say that the reward may be a contempt of court. But police admitted during the Foreman trial that they paid Donna Kingi’s phone bill, overdue rent, airfares, etc. at a total cost of more than A$30K. Does that mean they could be in contempt of court too?

    Do you agree that paying Crown witnesses’ living expenses (including overdue rent) should not occur and indeed should be prevented from occuring?

  3. Steven Says:
    June 11th, 2008 at 11:43 am

    It would be the same if the police were offering to pay the rent on the condition that her evidence led to a successful prosecution, which is the heart of the SST’s problem.

    Paying a witnesses trial expenses is different, and is standard. Paying the other expenses seems odd to me, and (depending on the full circumstances) might come close to the sort of inducement for favourable evidence that puts the integrity of the trial at risk.

  4. ross Says:
    June 11th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks, Steven.

    The following was reported in the Hawkes Bay Today on 11 May 2007 and relates to Foreman’s depositions hearing:

    Earlier yesterday, starting a second day in the witness box, Miss Kingi faced questions from Mr Squire about her financial situation at the time she moved to Australia, five weeks after the killing, and in the time afterwards.

    At first she said she had not been in financial difficulty, but then conceded she had moved out of her accommodation in Australia to resolve a debt situation.

    The New Zealand Police, in addition to meeting expenses for herself and her children to return to New Zealand in March last year and for this week’s hearing, had funded her into a new home-rental arrangement in Australia, and was continuing to pay the rent at $270 a week.

    Asked by Mr Squire whether the amount paid by the police to get into a new flat was “in excess of $1600” she said she wasn’t sure of the amount but when asked if police also paid more than $700 for her phone bill, she said: “Yes.”

    Asked by Mr Squire whether the purpose of her return to Hawke’s Bay in March last year was to trap Foreman into saying something which might incriminate himself, she said: “Not to trap him.”

    Miss Kingi, 33, who had told the depositions hearing she shared a cannabis joint with Foreman on the day of the killing, revealed in the cross-examination she provided that joint, and was a regular cannabis user – “every second day”.

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