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Did the Crown breach the suppression order in the Ureweras case?

By Steven | September 7, 2011

The Crown tells us that as a result of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Urewera case,

there is no longer sufficient evidence to justify the continuation of the proceedings against a number of those charged solely under the Arms Act…

That is, the Crown has revealed that the Supreme Court has ruled some evidence inadmissible. That’s a breach of the suppression order imposed by the Supreme Court. But it’s worse than that. The impression we are left with is that evidence was excluded concerning the remaining four defendants (although there’s still enough admissible evidence against them to continue the prosecution).

In fact, that’s very misleading.

The Supreme Court is yet to rule on whether this case will go a jury. In the light of the dropped prosecutions, we might suppose that the forthcoming trial is likely to be shorter and less complicated, which may dissolve many of the old objections to a jury trial. It can only be assumed that a jury trial is a real possibility now. If there is one, hasn’t the Crown just created a danger that jurors will roll up wrongly thinking that some information suggesting the defendants’ guilt is being kept from them?

Topics: Contempt of Court, Suppression orders | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Did the Crown breach the suppression order in the Ureweras case?”

  1. Justin Says:
    September 7th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Surely it would only a breach if they say the reason the evidence is not available is because it is suppressed. There are other reasons evidence “disappears” between charge and trial (witnesses change stories, stuff gets lost, closer examination reveals the evidence is not as conclusive as first thought, etc…).

    That aside, yes to your last point. Letting a jury know that information has been withheld from them can be prejudicial. I’ve had first hand experience of this on a jury and I can see how a jury could, if it is otherwise a close call, allow themselves to be influenced by the inference that more evidence against the accused exists which they have not seen.

  2. Steven Says:
    September 7th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    The Crown said that the evidence was no longer available as a result of the Supreme Court decision. I don’t think it could be any clearer.

    All details of the case were suppressed.

  3. Justin Says:
    September 7th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Sorry, didnt read the link, my bad. Seems like a slam dunk now.

  4. ross Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 12:03 am

    You ask: “hasn’t the Crown just created a danger that jurors will roll up wrongly thinking that some information suggesting the defendants’ guilt is being kept from them?”

    Jurors might think that information is being kept from during any trial. During the second Bain trial, following many pre-trial hearings, jurors might have thought they had been denied access to evidence. They would have been right. Of course, your argument relies on the assumption that jurors are reasonably competent at deducing the facts, and are able to reason properly. Did Justice Winkelmann opt for a judge-alone trial because she had doubts as to whether jurors could be trusted to do what you expect them to be able to do?

  5. Steven Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 10:50 am

    “Jurors might think that information is being kept from during any trial”

    You don’t think it’s worse when the Crown misleads potential jurors publicly?

    My argument really only relies on jurors reading the papers or watching TV.

    Justice Winkelmann’s reasons have been suppressed, but presumably we’ll find them out in due course.

  6. ross Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    “My argument really only relies on jurors reading the papers or watching TV.”

    Well, no, potential jurors will be required to believe that evidence has been excluded concerning the four accused, and they will have to draw a negative inference from that. That is your contention but I don’t know why you think jurors might do either.

  7. Steven Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Let’s take the second point first. You find it difficult to believe that when the defence manage to get evidence excluded, jurors will think to themselves, “wow, there’s some evidence against them that I’m not going to get to see.”

    Know what? I’m not even going to bother to keep arguing with you.

  8. ross Says:
    September 9th, 2011 at 11:49 am

    “wow, there’s some evidence against them that I’m not going to get to see.”

    Excpet the statement from the Crown Solicitor that you’ve linked to doesn’t say that.

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