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Lundy case is falling down?

By Steven | February 11, 2009

I commend to your attention Mike White’s terrific article questioning the conviction of Mark Lundy in North & South magazine.

It seems Lundy is to be added to New Zealand’s increasingly large stack of questionable convictions.

When serious questions like this arise, I don’t think it’s enough for police and prosecutors to respond, as they often do, by saying “the jury saw all the evidence, and they were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt”. If some of that evidence is open to serious challenge, the prosecutors should be answering those questions. If prosecutorial misconduct is alleged, such as a failure to turn over relevant evidence to the defence, prosecutors should be addressing that too. If a journalist uncovers compelling reasons to doubt some of the evidence that it seems the jury relied on, prosecutors should at the very least be prepared to point to other compelling evidence that indicates guilt.

To be fair to prosecutors, it’s sometimes hard to respond to criticisms of a lengthy and complicated trial process, to journalists who weren’t there for it all, don’t understand the law’s procedures and content, may well misunderstand or misquote explanations, are looking for an exciting angle, and may be little more than pawns of a lobby group. 

But when a reporter does what seems to be an in-depth, balanced, careful feature, I think it’s incumbent on the authorities to explain the other side, and to front-foot any shortcomings. The public’s confidence in the justice system is rocked far more by an article like this than by almost anything else I can think of.

I’m not holding my breath. But this may give some impetus to the case (made by Justice Thorp and others) for a Criminal Appeals Review Office, as exists in Canada and the UK.

Topics: General | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Lundy case is falling down?”

  1. ross Says:
    February 12th, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with you Steven, and I have read Mike White’s article.

    It is clear from the article that the jury did not see all of the evidence, so it is somewhat mystifying for police to say that they did. If the police did get the right man, then what have they got to fear from a retrial or formal inquiry? The fact that police oppose re-opening the case speaks volumes.

    As for a Criminal Appeals Review Office, I agree that such a body is required. However, the Justice Ministry, as Sir Thomas Thorp noted last year, is “turf conscious” and seems happy enough with the current system. In fact, when it was recently questioned about how a Criminal Appeals Review Office might work, the Ministry said that it would not have the power to quash convictions but would merely refer questionable cases back to the Court of Appeal. Hmmm. The Ministry seems blissfully unaware that the Court of Appeal is part of the problem.


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