My opinion is that the police who interviewed Teina Pora have been cut too much slack. I recall reading in the recent book on the Pora case Tim McKinnel commenting how the video tapes of the police interviews of Pora lack continuity. In other words, when the tapes stopped they resumed at a different point. From last nights movie on TV1 we also learnt that in the Pora case there were 100s of deletions from the file. That file was 'groomed' by police perhaps at the behest of the prosecutor - now High Court Judge Paul Davison. Why would I say that, because I know from personal experience the same thing happened in the Watson case. The assistant prosecutor Crutchley asked for a report just before the trial, the report was deleted but plenty material remains to show what material was deleted, evidence helpful to Scott Watson. And yes Judge Paul Davison was lead prosecution in the Watson case as well.
I've read reports in recent years where evidence held on file and fought not to be released in civil cases has been reviewed by the Judge as to its relevance. But our criminal courts have no objections to deletions, bringing no reason why ex prosecutors like Davison and Crutchley should ever have been concerned about culpability for hiding evidence - as we know happened in the Bain and Pora cases, and which I now know happened in Watson. The Courts don't care, the legislators don't care and meanwhile New Zealand 'punches above its weight' in miscarriages of Justice.
We are in the electronic age. Each inquiry already gets a number - that number can become the electronic file which can be protected from being meddled with or deleted by having everything backed up automatically in a master system. That way Dr Teoh's comments as to the matter found on Lundy's shirt as being poorly preserved and something which no man should be convicted upon would have been known to the Lundy defence at the outset and not a decade later. That may have also deterred those that took advantage of it being hidden to offer false testimony at the Lundy trial. Similarly Milton Weir would not have sat listening to evidence in the Bain trial of the glasses, central to that case, belonging to David when in fact they were his mothers - as he truthfully told police. There are many more critical examples in the Watson file now before the Government including one report totally gone that would never have been hidden or deleted because counsel for the defence would have had them on hand even before the committal to trial hearings if the file was treated, as it should be, as sacrosanct.
What we have heard about in Pora was not unique to that case alone, but arguably every miscarriage of Justice in New Zealand, including Watson, Lundy and Tamihere which are yet to be resolved. Tamihere is an interesting example - we have a primary Crown witness convicted of perjury and a second being searched for by ......wait for this, not police but a prison inmate, Arthur Taylor to bring that secret witness to Justice. If that isn't odd enough then consider once a trial is wrecked by perjury (the adage that perjury strikes fatally had the heart of Justice applies here) why does David Tamihere need to push the cart to be exonerated. It was the Crown's blinking witness yet they sit on their hands, there is nothing stopping the Crown stepping in and finding the secret witness from that case who has fled, or applying for the Tamihere convictions to be set aside. In a democracy the onus is on the Crown and police where they have willingly taken part in a miscarriage of Justice to put it right - not falling on a 60 something year old pensioner who was only released from life imprisonment because of poor health.
I was a little disappointed by the Pora movie, it was a dark movie and many will say that so it should have been. However, what about the celebration of the efforts of McKinnel, Jonathan Krebs and the redoubtable Ingrid Squire - as in the past we have seen Joe Karam and back in the 70s Pat Booth, Peter Williams along with many others. Indeed Pora himself who stepped out of prison and forgave those that had falsely imprisoned him. Instead we saw a sulking portrayal of Malcolm Rewa who many know was protected by some police allowing him to continue his attacks on women. The story isn't about Rewa it's about his enablers the police, and the enablers that allowed the evidence of a doctored video to be entered as evidence.
A big plus for me was learning something about Teina's parole which I didn't know about before. Assuming that it was accurate who could help be uplifted by the speech of Ingrid Squire to the parole board that relented and let Teina go before he would eventually be exonerated. I knew little about Ingrid Squire until last night but she is one powerful person, telling the parole board that the Pora convictions were the worst case of a miscarriage of Justice in the history of this country - what a shout out to 3 tired old folk sitting on their haunches with a claim that their's was not to judge the safety of a conviction. I ask now, why not - we've had enough false convictions for the board not to bury their heads in the sand as they did with Scott Watson nearly 2 years ago sending him away for 4 years after a retrospective change of the Law extending up to 5 years as the limit between parole board appearances - and why did that happen to Scott, for the same reason Ingrid Squire's argued against - that innocent men or women should not be forced to admit guilt in order to be released from prison.
We've got a lot wrong and some of the things are so easy to fix, yet we have men and women falsely imprisoned for decades with only themselves fighting against the state for their freedom. The state is not meant to be the enemy of the people but rather the protector of the truth. There is no excuse for believing mutterings from a new police commissioner talking about what police have learnt since the last news break on a major miscarriage of Justice. When the Pora or Lundy cases happen, indeed that or Tamihere as well, where malfeasance is exposed - heads must roll and the wrongfully convicted assisted by the powers that falsely imprisoned them.