I could say that the Judgement by Justice France above was the first such step but I recall a case earlier this year in Raglan where a search and seizure of drugs was ruled illegal because the Detective involved didn't have a warrant to enter the property but had a 'concern' for the defendant's safety and entered the property illegally and happened to find drugs he believed belong to the accused person. Straight forward abuse of process in many people's mind but the type of thing long accepted in New Zealand Courts where Judges for whatever reason didn't focus on the transparency of how the 'ends' was achieved. From memory in the Raglan case, the officer also broke into a shed despite fully well knowing that the person of his 'concern' was located elsewhere.
On the face of it in the drugs Hamilton/Raglan case might have belonged to the defendant, just as in the case ruled on by Justice France that the targets of the uncover's investigation were possibly dealing in drugs and part of an 'expansion' plan by a gang to spread into Nelson. In both events the police had their theories and good information but then they went about breaking the law to achieve it, such law breaking, or breach of procedure was rejected in Raglan and now we see the same in Nelson. Some will say that the targets were lawbreakers and police were only doing their jobs.
Of course it isn't the job of police to break laws and it certainly isn't the job of the Courts to turn a blind eye to law breaking, of any type - particularly where the Courts are seen to condone the 'ends justifies the means' approach by police that may not let legalities get in the way. Over many years the Courts might have been seen to accept irregularities without comment, the message to police being that there behaviour, if not condoned, wasn't an impediment to gaining convictions
Most people would agree that if police are not sanctioned to uphold the Law all areas of Justice are suddenly made grey. I'll mention 2 of my 'favourites' here; the lens in the Bain case, and the hairs on the blanket taken from the yacht of Scott Watson. In both cases the similarity; a case struggling for purchase, searches already made without success, then repeated later only to find pivotal evidence - normal result in a democratic country under the rule of Law: chuck the case out. But no, no matter how bad the case looks, how fill of holes it has become, how much logic is lacked in the sequence of events presented as evidence - the Courts have allowed them to continue on. Result? Miscarriages of Justice, one after another in a long line.
Bain, Watson and Thomas guilty despite planted evidence. Hall and Pora sentenced to life despite reliable information and proof that neither man was the killer in the particular crimes they were charged with. Others less clear but procedurally wrong, Tamihere - body found in the wrong place and with the watch an ex detective claimed he located Tamihere's son wearing. Rex Haig convicted on the testimony of a witness whose evidence was a supplied after a deal for immunity from prosecution. Ross Applegram (sp?) convicted like Tamihere, Hall, Watson and Pora on not only tainted evidence but also gaol house informers. Other similarities; same detective featuring in Bain and Watson case, Thomas and Tamihere, others possibly as well, coincidence or a feature of MOJ's in New Zealand? These number 9 here, the first five five are clearly innocent as was the main accused by the killer who got immunity and went onto kill again. At least 60% failures in Justice where the Judiciary have taken to look the other way or being willing to accept peripheral evidence when main evidence has failed.
All of these cases are those in which there has been Judicial tolerance to tampered with, planted, or withheld evidence. Of course tampered with, or planted evidence, is also that given by prison informers, accomplices or even principal offenders looking to escape prosecution. I don't for the moment remember the name of the person who killed the woman in Whangaporoa, earlier got immunity for another murder and went onto kill again. These are the men will say what they told, often with large embellishments which on one hand sound contrived and bizzare, but on the other prejudicial and hopeful of getting a weak case across the line.
Watching all of this have been Judges, in the lower Courts, High Courts and those of appeal. In some cases Judges have looked to 'fill the gap' that might be shown in the credibility of evidence, or simply willing to overlook it and promote other evidence which 'proves' the defendant or convicted person guilty. Watched, apparently unconcerned that if any instance of police misconduct during an investigation then the whole case in doubt and should be thrown out. Or perhaps watched considering some other information they might know about the defendant but which wasn't in evidence, about his her character or badness - much as final guard preventing their escape.
On the process of repeats, the OIC of the case thrown out by Justice France 'happen's to also now be the man accused by Paul Davidson of giving inconsistent evidence about the secret, and illegal surveillance of another agency. The Minister of Police, relatively fresh to the job, talks about disappointment that the 'crooks' got away In Nelson or similar words but does not reprove who own department. So we can take it that at the top it is seen as okay for police to break the law even when the Courts rule firmly that is not.
I called this blog a big step forward. I believe it is but only if those, such as the Minister of Police, responsibly do their jobs and not lament broken laws but rather who might have got away. In the absence of that Justice Francis has kept the ball rolling as to what is not acceptable, perhaps this is the step toward cases when not only evidence, shown as planted or suspect, but where the logic of a Crown case or process defies credibility - being tossed out and investigators, the few they are that seem to populate the grey get prosecuted or kicked out leaving the integrity of police with those that uphold it.