There was a lot missing at the sentencing of Witness C at the Auckland High Court on 8 counts of perjury. I am not sure what I really expected. The police and Crown have done a lot to protect their informers over many years. The argument has always been that secret witnesses are a last resort, but vital to prosecutions. For the first time the New Zealand public may generally be disturbed that such witnesses may lie, but also lie extravagant detail, and consider the result as the absolute failure of the system to take any interest in the truth. When did the truth first appear to emerge in this case after David Tamihere had been convicted of the murders of the Swedish hitchhikers Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen?
When Urban's body was found buried in bush the 'stolen' watch was still on his wrist, his mortal injuries far different than what witness C had said of his being bashed to death and dumped at sea. Somehow the New Zealand Court of Appeal, despite this fresh evidence that went to the heart of the case, said that the Tamihere convictions built around the Hoglin watch being found in the Tamihere home where it was said to have been gifted to David's son, were 'safe,' At some point during the perjury sentencing Richard Francois, appearing for the 'prosecution,' dismissed the Court of Appeal of that era disdainfully. I was surprised that in the Auckland High Court I would hear the words I often repeat myself about the Court that failed to recognize the Miscarriages of Justices embodied in many cases through that 'era' starting with Tamihere, David Bain, Teina Pora, Scott Watson and Mark Lundy - a Court which filled the gaps for ailing prosecutions, painted over the cracks and administered, heartless, injustice. They were assassins disguised in black gowns forming a medieval Court who could look into the minds of Jurors, defendants and the lawyers themselves always to protect the prosecution. The Court that was never disturbed that Pora, not yet 16, had been held incommunicado, cultivated by the promise of money, lied to, then ignored the big gaps in his story and the inducements he was offered and kept in prison for 2 decades without a single recrimination for Rutherford, the 'tough' nosed South Auckland cop who ignored the real culprit and 'lone wolf' rapist and long time informer Malcolm Rewa, choosing a youth instead that couldn't describe the victim in his 'confession' and didn't know where she lived.
Informers have always been looked after, the authorities are seldom concerned about the truth when in comes to informers, they cover for them as they did in Tamihere and Watson where they said the informers evidence wasn't pivotal and that the prosecution would have still won without the tainted evidence. No explanation ever given, why if the evidence wasn't needed, the hazardous and highly prejudicial was given to the jury. A few days after 'C's' hearing I appreciated that it was right to tell the High Court of the shortcomings of the Court of Appeals in many different Miscarriages of Justice. The Court is after all meant to be a place of truth, a place where the 'truth' as offered by secret witnesses should be viewed as unnecessary and dangerous as case after New Zealand case has shown. So it was an appropriate truth at the sentencing of C in the Auckland High Court that the Court was reminded how the Justice system had been abused by police using secret witness for decades, confident that the Court would back them up. 98 years of false imprisonment on just the names mentioned above when added to Arthur Thomas's 9 years.
I am not sure of what had drawn me to the Court though it would appear to be for the chance to look at C. The once barrel chested Ngapuhi with the velvet tongue was reduced by age, pulling an audience, apparently comfortable and aloof. Hard to read, nothing indicating any sort of remorse for his relationship with the late policeman John Hughes who had helped C get early parole for a double murder only only for him to re-offend and spend longer in prison on his recall than he did for his original sentence. It was spoken about in the Court of C having continued to be 'active' in offering perjured evidence to apparently willing police, there are hints that he had been an informer for over 4 decades. He obviously treated it as a full time job.
Behind him and to his left was David Tamihere a man with an easy smile and also weathered by many years in prison thanks to C's evidence that the Appeal Court would later say wasn't needed. How blind could a Court be to think that 'confessions' that when heard by the Jury causing some to cry - could not have mattered to them. At one stage Tamihere said to a woman sitting close to me that he didn't care what sentence C got but that it was the convictions for perjury that mattered as surely they do. On that Wednesday morning on the grounds where NZ's first Parliament had stood the country moved a little closer to coming of age where the institutions of Justice themselves saw their own covered lack of skepticism exposed to the light by 8 convictions against the heart of Justice.
Around 10 kilometers away in Maximum security Arthur Taylor waited for the outcome of his successful prosecution, a minimum security prisoner held in maximum security, the same prison where both Tamihere and C had spent years and years, the bleak place from where the 'story' 'Henry went last night' was penned, the fresh faced young south islander who took his life there during one short period where 8 or 9 men hanged themselves and a protest began that Arthur would eventually join and become locked in a battle for prisoner's and their families rights. Arthur has won many battles in the Courts, to this point in time none have been more significant than the exposure of the Court of Appeal of 2 decades or so ago and the police confident of 'getting away' with bringing perjurers to Court to gain convictions. Not a single police officer has ever been prosecuted, not in Thomas, Tamihere, Bain, Watson or Lundy. The Courts don't bother to comment and police just keep going paying the mealy mouthed with money, goods or a quicker chance of freedom. Freedom is an interesting word to use in a blog about C who stole an innocent man's freedom abetted by police.
Miscarriages of Justice have many of the same characteristics case by case, sure signs that are ignored, never raised by the Courts or the police. They appear to never looked for and memory of this is shut out when faced with another case that has the same characteristics. Now it is up to all of us to remember the perjury of C. Forget the man himself as the problem, and remember the police and Judges who were his enablers.