Friday, March 31, 2006

Has justice failed?

Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton have been found "not guilty" in the police rape trial. I wasn't in the courtroom, so I don't know all the evidence - but from media reports, the case against them was strong. There are going to be a lot of people feeling that justice has failed here, that these men have got away with repeatedly raping and victimising a young woman all those years ago because they wore a police uniform. But the reason they have "gotten away with it" is because the evidence did not convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt - that the case simply wasn't strong enough - and because we operate on the principle that it is far better for the guilty to go free than see the innocent wrongly jailed. Today's acquittal is, in a sense, the price of that principle. It's shitty, but its what happens when we deliberately try and avoid one sort of miscarriage of justice at the risk of creating another.

I am sure that that is no consolation whatsoever to Louise Nicholas. But she may be able to take consolation in the fact that this trial will taint her abusers for the rest of their lives, and that Clint Rickards will almost certainly never get to be Police Commissioner. And she might also be able to take consolation in the fact that some of her abusers might not have gotten away with everything. It's not enough, any more than seeing Slobodan Milosevic die before his trial was complete was enough for his victims - but it is at least something.


What exactly in her case amounted to it being "strong"? )serious question asopposed to a sarcastic one)
as far as i could tell there was her testimony and then everything else contradicted it. Clearly a society must support the defence in that sort of a case or everyone would be in jail very quickly.

One think to realise is that these people have been seriously hurt by these acccusations. Society has already given them a potentially false positive conviction.

if they are already in jail for rape that is evidence against them (but not proof) but at the moment that is speculation.

Posted by Genius : 3/31/2006 05:45:00 PM

Idiot, This is the stupidest post you have ever made on an otherwise excellent site.

You are a big one for due process and following the rule of law. You can't have a smorgasbord approach to this when it suits you. they have not been aquitted, the have been found innocent.

This trial turned on the memories of events that happened 20 years ago. God help all of us if we can be convicted on the word of one person 20 years after the fact, even if it is a rape complaint.

Posted by Sanctuary : 3/31/2006 06:04:00 PM

Poor Louise Nicholas the turth will come out later in another case.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/31/2006 06:49:00 PM

hmm I would say they are very likely to be the guys in jail - but regardless, the case against them seems to have been weak.

Posted by Genius : 3/31/2006 07:17:00 PM

Sanctuary: I'm also very big on justice - and just to make this absolutely clear, justice dictates that we set a high bar for conviction, and that where the evidence is not strong enough, juries acquit. However, there are cases - and many will feel that this is one of them - where that gives us a perverse result. I think its better in the long run (I would very much rather see the guilty go free than the innocent punished), but very shitty for the victims in such cases.

New Zealand law makes no distinction between being acquitted and being found innocent - and that is precisely why this is going to taint Rickards et al for the rest of their lives. The Scots have a good idea with their three-way verdict - "guilty", "not guilty", and "not proven" - and it would be helpful for everybody to know which of the two possibilities it was in this case.

As for the case being based on 20-year old memories, that simply underlines the failure of the police to deal with it at the time (and the problems when the accused is a police officer in trusting the police to deal with it). But on the bright side, I think police culture has changed a lot since the 80's - look at how fast they jumped on the problems in Manukau - and we have at least some reason to thik that similar accusations in the future will be dealt with properly, rather than being left to lie around for a decade.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/31/2006 07:24:00 PM

Yeah - seriously WTF?

Before the trial the defendants were innocent of the charges, during the trial the defendants were innocent, and they remain innocent (like all New Zealanders not proven guilty).

I'm intrigued by what evidence you found strong. Or for that matter what media reports suggested the prosecution case strong. The media reports seemed very pro-defence to me.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 3/31/2006 11:23:00 PM

People will change their mind about this case when the court order of suppress of names on another rape case are open to the news media.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/01/2006 08:03:00 AM

anonymous - give it a rest, we heard you the first time.

Besides - you are talking about somthing different from what is being discussed here - here we are discussing due process.
Supressed information is by definition not part of that.

Posted by Genius : 4/01/2006 08:38:00 AM

Idiot: her case was (seems to have been) very weak, she had no supporting evidence, nobody who would say that they had seen her even upset.
There were people who should have seen something or heard something who stood up in court and said the opposite.

I know a woman who was raped and the guy put in prison, 10 years later you could still tell something had happened to her. To many people did not see a change in her.

You said "that simply underlines the failure of the police to deal with it at the time" - I am unaware of any complaint being laid at the time? was it?

Are you saying non-police can engage in group sex but police off duty cannot.

You articel seems to be saying "they got away with it" yet at this trial she was unable to prove that anything non-consentual happened.

You seem to be saying that in sex crimes men are guilty unless proved otherwise. If thats the case I am going to make my girlfriend sign a form each time we go out!


Posted by Anonymous : 4/01/2006 10:50:00 AM

Sorry mate but other blog sites has the truths about suppress order and even their names which should been suppress maybe they should be jail for 3 day for contempt of court.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/01/2006 05:01:00 PM

Genius: I found her statements pretty compelling. But again - and I did say this above, but people seem to have ignored it - they clearly were not compelling enough to the jury when compared to the other evidence. And in the end, that is the only question that matters. We can doubt the verdict, we can suspect that the accused have gotten away with rape, but legally they've been acquitted and cannot be tried again for the same offence. And I would much rather that happened than risk seeing someone wrongly convicted, or face repeated legal harassment until a jury delivers the "right" result.

Graeme: the presumption of innocence is just that - a presumption, designed to prevent wrongful convictions. That doesn't mean that the people involved are actually innocent, it just means that the crown has to prove its case.

Outside the courtroom it's a different story. You can't stop people from believing things, and a vocal minority at least believes that this case was wrongly decided. Which is going to make it very difficult for Rickards, Schollum and Shipton to escape the taint.

SB: Louise Nicholas first laid a formal complaint about this incident in 1993. And since you need reminding, what brought this matter to public attention was the revelation by one of the investigators that he'd helped hush things up to help his fellow cops. But again, police culture has come a long way since then, and I have far more faith that a similar incident today would be properly investigated.

(As for group sex, I really don't care, provided its consensual. The allegation that it was not was one of the reasons there was a trial).

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/02/2006 12:02:00 AM

Legally they've been acquitted and cannot be tried again for the same offence.
That funny I thought the government was going to change this law because gang members and others were getting away with crimes they admit they done after they had been found not guilty. We know the Law Society and their members against any change.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/02/2006 08:06:00 AM

I think one needs to have more than a feeling that testimony was compelling. I know if I was on the stand I would be less convincing than many people I know and at the same time vastly less likely to be lying.

I get the impression that our system would tend to find in favor of emotional people and against calm people (bad news for me). I guess I would have to fake tears and act and so forth even if it DID happen... Sadly I would be bad at it.

To me what it comes down to then is how internally consistent the story is how consistent it is with other information the prosecution knew about and how consistent it is with information they did not know at the time they stated it.

Louise seems to have a weak case on all grounds besides any potentially suppressed information.

Posted by Genius : 4/02/2006 10:53:00 AM

I/S: What if they *were* innocent? As you say, this trial will taint the accused for the rest of their lives, and has destroyed their careers, too. What if, just what if, all that they'd done to deserve this was to screw around?

I just had this argument yesterday with a friend of mine who went on a Radical Feminist Action Group protest against the verdict. I made the same arguments, and got accused of being a man.

All I'm saying is that there're a lot of people who are taking sides here, and making assumptions on a fact based on perception, prejudice and/or ideology, none of which amounts to evidence. If we look at the evidence, it's absolutely and abundantly clear - we simply don't know.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/02/2006 02:17:00 PM

I'm just disgusted that the defence was able to drag her reliability as a witness through the mud, while two of the defendants had very relevant information supressed, which would have torn their reliability to shreds.

I'm all for a high standard of justice. I just want it applied evenly.

As it stands, the burden of proof rests firmly on the victim, firstly discouraging women (and men) from standing up to their rapist, and secondly putting them on trial, making them relive the experience over and over again, having their veracity constantly challenged.

I'd rather that things were less biased in favour of the defendent (the bar is TOO high)
Justice must be served if it is to be justice at all - set the standard too low and you get false convictions, set it at the level you see now and you get very few proportionate to the level of rape that exists in our society. And then you get a society where men rape without fear of consequences...

And I/S, based on what I've seen and heard my confidence in the police's culture of impunity and acceptance of rape is probably a lot lower than yours

Posted by Anonymous : 4/04/2006 09:23:00 AM

Keith: I think the screwing around is what will provide some of the taint. As Russell said this morning, the defence account is creepy enough on its own, and paints a picture of people who were simply exploitative and not people's idea of "good cops". As for the wider issue, you cannot stop people from forming their own opinions based on their perceptions of the evidence and second-guessing the jury accordingly. It may be grossly unfair (and it certainly is in many cases) - but you cannot stop people from doing it.

George: there are very good reasons why such information was suppressed at trial - to ensure that it is the allegations in question that are judged, not a defendant's past. Allowing such information runs a far higher risk of seeing innocent people in prison. In this case, I agree - it was blatantly one-sided. And all I can say is again, that that is the cost of our principle that it is better to see the guilty walk free than the innocent wrongly convicted.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/04/2006 02:05:00 PM

Icehawk says: "Rape cases tend to be he-said/she-said disputes where the jury has to decide who to believe - so isn't something which to any reasonable person casts doubt on an accuseds honesty both relevant and important?"

Just because someone is dishonest (they've shoplifted, for example, or been convicted of filing a false or misleading report with the Companies Office) doesn't make him or her a rapist.

If an accused gives evidence and says I'm an honest person, and they have convictions for dishonesty offences, then the prosecution can introduce those convictions as evidence.

You'll probably also find that most rape cases are she said/he shuts up; where the defence lawyer says she's said it, but are you certain beyond reasonable doubt of guilt?

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 4/04/2006 04:59:00 PM

I jumped on here to find out what the suppressed details were. I didn't find them on this site but did find them on another.

All I will say is this. We live in a country just as corrupt as any 3rd world toilet you can imagine. My blood is boiling. I pity that poor woman. I really do. I pray justice is one day done. Shame on NZ.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/04/2006 06:51:00 PM

poor Louise, a bit of a bike 20 years ago, cant sleep at night, goes to a quack hipnotherapist as these mentally week type do, and what do you know, she finds rape amoungst a life of screwwing around, yea yea dosent wash with me, If she was raped as I was, I protested to everyone and everywhere, when it happened, not 20 years later I got the barstard, case closed, GET OVER IT

Posted by Anonymous : 4/04/2006 06:52:00 PM

its also hard to remember facts that go back 20 years ago you also think at the time you are the person in the wrong so don't speak up and feel like you are doing something wrong. It's not until you are married happily with children you look back and think shit that was wrong and wonder why you were pretty screwed up and insecure. So hard to remember the exact time date what sort of car bla bla you just remember the creeps getting there way. They have top lawyers know people in high places so unfair.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/04/2006 10:34:00 PM

I jumped on here to find out what the suppressed details were. I didn't find them can anyone tell me where to find them

Posted by Anonymous : 4/04/2006 10:40:00 PM

I have particular grievance toward the accused supporters and their idiotic rhetoric regarding these whole proceedings as “public attempts to avoid a Maori Police Commissioner”. Are they serious??? This accusation seems eerily similar to Donna Awatere Huata’s supporters’ accusations that “they were only prosecuted because they were Maori” and that it was “discrimination against Maoris”. “Prima-facie” case means “sufficient in law to establish a case or fact”; therefore there must be reasonable evidence for a prosecution to proceed. In short, if these men had a case brought against them without sufficient evidence, it would not make it to court!!!

The fact that two of the accused have convictions for rape, that they are currently serving at “Our Majesty’s Hotel” and that this information was suppressed is totally and utterly unbelievable and shocking, to say the least. That this information was not allowed to be submitted, for concern of influencing a pending prosecution is abhorrent to me. By the innate qualities as human beings, we are always judged by our previous behaviour, and whether we like it or not, is relevant to whether we continue that behaviour pattern in the future. Crime statistics reflect this; if you have committed one crime, the likelihood of repeat offending increases exponentially with each offence that is committed.

What has this world come to?? I am disgusted and ashamed to live in a country where our judicial system allows this travesty of justice to occur, and therefore totally support the demonstrations that took place in Wellington, well done, keep it up!!! Now all we need is the NZ media to have the courage to do the same.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/04/2006 10:54:00 PM

Anyone wondered why Rickards showed after the trial but Shipton and Schollum didn't? Questions must be asked. Were they, perhaps, otherwise "engaged"?

Posted by Anonymous : 4/05/2006 09:31:00 AM

I find the fact that three policemen,whose job it is to protect and serve the public being you and me and our children and young people,have openly admitted to group sex(which she claimed was rape!)with the daughter of one of the police officers friends at a young and vulnerable(but not illegal)age very disturbing to say the least.Three grown men in the ultimate position of authority taking advantage of a young(legal)nieave girl,really the matter of consent doesn't even enter into it as they shouldn't have been ther in the first place.Those cops chose the wrong path 20 yrs ago and have been travelling down it since then thinking that that behaviour was and is correct.They are sexual predators bt their own admission in their testamony in court,never mind the suppressed info.The out come of this sham trial did not suprise me,it saddened me to think that the police really do look after(corruption!)their own and that the only way to be looked after by them is to join them.Maybe it's all a recruitment scheme"JOIN THE POLICE-YOU CAN'T ARREST YOURSELF"

Posted by Anonymous : 4/05/2006 01:45:00 PM

You probably want to edit the
10:54:27 post

If you had in the past been convicted of a crime (guilty or not) and you knew that in the future you could be accused of that crime again and convicted of it based on the evidence that you had done it in the past you would be in an awkward position.

1) You would be a pasty for false allegations - to avoid risk you would have to be ridiculously careful since any evidence or accusation combined with your previous conviction "proves guilt".
2) You would be highly likely to give in and live up to societies expectations.

I am not saying it should not be reviewed but I certainly wouldn't support a silly knee jerk reaction to it.

Also I suggest that the judicial system is not about making the victim feel good – it is about making us safer from crime.

Posted by Genius : 4/05/2006 07:25:00 PM

From what I read 2 of the accused were given privilidges not normally given to people in custody. They usually enter the court though the door from the court cells and sit in the dock with a uniformed guard each side. They do not have physical access to any lawyers or others in the public court. Lawyers have to talk to them in the court cells area. They are usually brought in by the guards after the jury is seated, some accused who are in custody are brought in wearing handcuffs which remain on during the trial.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/05/2006 08:01:00 PM

I have no doubt that the rotorua police were taking advantage of a goodtime girl...but pahleeze...20 years later the woman complains rape! how didn't her then boyfriend notice something was rong???...and what the hell was ms nicholas boarding with a cop at 13 years of age for?..her father was in the SnR team with them and they were in the caravan awning having sex with the then girl and noone noticed a change in her behaviour or stained underwear??...erm how come the teachers at least didnt notice different behaviour..and who really did rape her at a young age to begin this crusade against police?/

Posted by Anonymous : 4/07/2006 08:57:00 AM

The people who are commenting about her coming out 20 year after it happened and why she didn't come out early: you might want to remember that the reason why was because the original complaints were hushed up by a Policeman who was allegedly having group sex with one of the accused, and the Police Association.

The Police also covered there asses in other cases from the 80s in that area, thats why the whole investigation started.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/07/2006 05:29:00 PM

I have read the supressed evidence which is never admissable in a NZ court (for very good reasons) so would not change the verdict. I think the prosicution case was very weak and only based on the accusers say so. I think if the accused were not police officers the case may not even have gone to court. Admissions made in the case and public opinion will severely hinder the ability for Rickards to continue serving as a police officer. I'm sure the Police administration is looking at numerous ways of getting rid of him (employment law permitting) or burrying him behind a pile of useless paperwork. Hew will be under some pressure to leave. Perhaps the Perf (Police Early Retirement Fund) scheme is a good incentive.
(Or is that Perv scheme in this case)

Posted by Anonymous : 4/09/2006 11:50:00 AM