Thursday, March 01, 2007



A verdict

The jury in the latest police rape trial has found the defendants not guilty.

It is difficult enough to prosecute rape at the best of times. When the offence occurred so long in the past, there is no DNA or other forensic evidence, and even the victim's memory grows hazy, it is practically impossible. Reasonable doubt protects the innocent, but it may also protect the guilty where prosecution has not been timely. The solution is not to discard reasonable doubt, or shift the burden of proof in rape cases, or allow people to be tried on the basis of what other offences they have committed rather than the evidence in that particular case (as some have suggested) - it is to insist that the police do their fucking jobs properly.

If Rickards, Shipton and Schollum have gotten away with kidnapping, rape, and indecent assault, it is because back in the 80's the police did not investigate their own, and (in the Nicholas case at least) other officers covered up for them. This sort of corruption and impunity should not be tolerated in any police force. Everyone should be equal before the law - especially those tasked to uphold it. Things have changed - recent prosecutions of serving police officers (including Rickards) prove that - but I'm not yet sure whether they've changed enough. Perhaps I'll believe it when the Police Complaints Authority produces investigations rather than whitewashes, and when the police no longer award commendations to officers for incidents in which they were found to have unjustifiably assaulted people.

30 comments:

I’m so angry, so very fucking angry – two of these former cops are already convicted of pack raping a woman with an object, the exact same MO they have been accused of doing with Louise Nicholas and this recent woman AND THEY GET OFF!

I have never been so disappointed in the justice system and what message does this send women who are raped, why bother attempting legal recourse when convicted pack rapists can get off like this?

This was also the Police force on trial, and the verdict can’t help but make me think there is one rule for them and a very different kind of justice system for the rest of us.

I feel fucking ill!

Posted by Bomber : 3/01/2007 02:45:00 PM

Either there a conspiracy among women to accuse these men of rape of rape, or they're guilty. It should be obvious after today what the answer is...

Posted by Anonymous : 3/01/2007 03:00:00 PM

Bomber: to point out the obvious, simply because they have been convicted of a similar act does not mean that they did it a second time - or (more pertinantly) can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they did it a second time.

We have a justice system predicated on the idea that it is better for the guilty to go free than see the innocent imprisoned. This may be an example of that principle in action - but we erode it at our peril. If we demand lower standards of evidence for cops, we have no moral ground to stand on when those same low standards are used elsewhere.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/01/2007 03:04:00 PM

idiot/savant: Agree with you that it is better that the guilty go free rather than the inocent are convicted. If this had been a civil trial rather than a criminal trial, It would be possible to say that "on the balance of probilities" Rickards, shiptom & Schollum are guilty of rape.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/01/2007 03:20:00 PM

Bomber wrote:
I have never been so disappointed in the justice system and what message does this send women who are raped, why bother attempting legal recourse when convicted pack rapists can get off like this?

You might also want to think about this: As Georgina Beyer so passionately said during the PLRB debate, sex workers wouldn't report being raped or abused by johns because they were criminals. You ran the risk of being charged with soliciting if you laid a complaint; and in the unlikely event it ever went to trial, the defence would fall on your rap sheet like wolves on raw meat.

If you want to open that door, Bomber, you better be ready to do it all the way.

I/S wrote:
Things have changed - recent prosecutions of serving police officers (including Rickards) prove that - but I'm not yet sure whether they've changed enough.

It would be a start if the Police got their legal ducks in a row quickly, and sack Deputy Commissioner Rickards. He may not have been convicted of any offence, and being a sleazy prick isn't necessarily a crime or an employment matter. But I don't see how anyone could read the transcript of the trial and argue he's a fit and proper person to be, in effect, one promotion away from being New Zealand's top cop.

I also hope we're going to see a rigorous investigation that sees Brad and Sharon Shipton charged with perjury, and attempting to suborn perjury from others. You can't have police officers' spouses acting like they're above the law, any more than their partners.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/01/2007 03:43:00 PM

Bomber, I feel the same way, yet I agree in full with I/S.

We need a -fully- independent Police complaints process. Historical claims are too hard to prove, and when small town cops offend, that is too often what the case ends up being.

I wonder if Garth McVicar and co will be posting Schollum and Shipton on their website now? And I wonder if at the same time he will be singing for more Police powers to "get the baddies", and less protection in court for people accused of crimes. So, he would want to give more power to Rikards, and to the Schollum's and Shiptons of today's force, and that power would exist for every cop in every small town over every 16 year old 45Kg girl. Yet at the same timewill he be condemning the two who are presently behind bars?

I wonder if the media will get comment from the man?

Posted by james cairney : 3/01/2007 03:56:00 PM

James:

Well, we've already had Shipton playing the racist card in the Herald:

"Helen Clark, the Police Association and the police hierarchy need to right some wrongs handed out to Mr Rickard. I believe the persecution was to prevent him from becoming the first Maori commissioner of police. There's a lot of shots to be fired yet."

OH FUCK OFF! You'd think Helen Clark, of all people, would welcome a Maori Commissioner with arms wide open and a sloppy kiss on the lips, and if anything the NZPF have been bending over backwards to attract more Maori, PIs and other minorities into the force. It's spitting in the face of every decent Maori in the Police - sworn and non-sworn, male and female - to have this scumbag convicted rapist appealing to racial solidarity!

I think there will be a Maori Commissioner of Police in my life time - but if we can't do a damn sight better than Rickards, there shouldn't be.ol

Posted by Anonymous : 3/01/2007 04:10:00 PM

disgusted, but not at all suprised.

ive seen cops openly bullshit their way out off all sorts of situations in front of a judge.

and craig r - yep, i second that "oh fuck off" on the racism issue. What amazes me (well, does it really amaze me?) is that this has been said before and no reporter now or then seems willing or able to point out how stupid that claim is.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/01/2007 05:05:00 PM

I totally agree Craig, but I believe the comments were from Shipton's brother.

Posted by james cairney : 3/01/2007 05:33:00 PM

I understand why there were no convictions, allow I thought Schollum and Shipton might be nailed.

But one thing that strikes me is that one of the co-accused in the 1989 rape confirmed an incident took place, by pleading guilty to the lesser charge of abduction. Even if it was a plea bargain, it puts paid the the insistence of Shipton's family that *none* of it ever happened.

There are stories out there about these people and the way they acted in the 1980s. I've heard some relatively directly. Stories aren't convictions, and there may not be any more of those, but I'm damned if I'll have Rickards as deputy police commissioner.

Posted by Russell Brown : 3/01/2007 05:52:00 PM

James: You're quite right and I'll amend and repost.

Well, we've already had Brad Shipton's brother, Greg, playing the racist card in the Herald:

"Helen Clark, the Police Association and the police hierarchy need to right some wrongs handed out to Mr Rickard. I believe the persecution was to prevent him from becoming the first Maori commissioner of police. There's a lot of shots to be fired yet."

OH FUCK OFF! You'd think Helen Clark, of all people, would welcome a Maori Commissioner with arms wide open and a sloppy kiss on the lips, and if anything the NZPF have been bending over backwards to attract more Maori, PIs and other minorities into the force. It's spitting in the face of every decent Maori in the Police - sworn and non-sworn, male and female - to have the brother of a scumbag convicted rapist appealing to racial solidarity!

I think there will be a Maori Commissioner of Police in my life time - but if we can't do a damn sight better than Clint Rickards, there shouldn't be.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 3/01/2007 06:24:00 PM

I agree with craig.
if you want to open the door you have to be prepared to open it all the way, you cant just pick and choose and its just game playing to even hint that that would be possible.

In the end - You cant blame the government or the jury or the judge or even the defence - they all did exactly what they were forced to do by the system and the result was almost inevitable.

GNZ

Posted by Anonymous : 3/01/2007 07:20:00 PM

Yes, good post Craig.

I was also disgusted by their public display of piety outside the courtroom, using prayers and hymns to make themselves look more virtuous. The whole thing was stage managed.

And I swore loudly at the TV when Willy Jackson argued on Close Up that MPs act unethically, too [cheating on their wives], so why can't Rickards and co? For fuck's sake Willy, it's not about sex, it's about the misuse of power! By the police! Upholders of the law! Why does this IDIOT get so much media time?

Posted by Anonymous : 3/01/2007 08:41:00 PM

Unfortunately, the prosecution case was not proven beyond reasonable doubt! Better scumbags get off occasionally, than people are convicted on , lets face it, not very substantial evidence. But - they are still scumbags and now, most people know it!

Posted by JonL : 3/01/2007 08:50:00 PM

Craig: I agree entirely on getting rid of Rickards. Unfortunately, it may be difficult, but I want them to try. This is not a guy I want in uniform, let alone setting the tone for our police force.

Fortunately,he's at least given them an excuse to ensure he is never promoted at least. Given his post-trial comments about holding the people who prosecuted him accountable, it is difficult to see how he can ever be their boss.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/01/2007 09:22:00 PM

Russell and Idiot - Rickards will never be promoted or be Deputy Commissioner because that is not an internal appointment but one made personally by the Prime Minister under S4 of the Police Act. Clark, to her credit, had already declined him for that post when Robinson recommended him.

Posted by David Farrar : 3/01/2007 10:40:00 PM

The police need help...from the outside.

Posted by Unknown : 3/02/2007 08:07:00 AM

They should sack Rickards on the grounds that there exists evidence that, on the balance of probabilities, he raped two women whilst a serving police officer and used his position to prevent his being convicted.

The onus will then be on him to sue in the Employment Court - which can hear all the evidence and operates on the "balance of probabilities".

Posted by Anonymous : 3/02/2007 12:52:00 PM

I agree with the anguish here. It's a disgrace.

I'm getting a little pissed of with law students and others pushing the "this is how the system works" line. It does not have to. Things can change for the better. That's what progressiveness in a society is about.

I'm not a lawyer, but I do not see why, at least in rape cases, there cannot be legislative change. It seems simple and fair to me that if a rape-victim must have her entire history trawled through by wealthy, morally-redundant QC's, the same should apply for the defendant. I'm not saying that previous convictions should be part of most trials; I see good reason why they should not.

But with rape cases relying often purely on "He said, she said", and add to that an incredibly sexist and patriarchal legal system, I see no good reason why a person facing rape charges, currently in jail for rape (of a very similar nature), should have that (rather crucial fact) suppressed.

There is no need to throw the baby out with the bath-water here, but serious reform to our legal system is plainly necessary. Comments such as "the legal system is like this, has always been like this, and should always be like this" is hardly a rational (let alone a moral) argument.
max

Posted by Anonymous : 3/02/2007 02:15:00 PM

Max:

Who's say 'as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen'?

I'm not a law student - and I've spent more than enough time as a journalist and political activist to have any delusions that any human institution is perfect.

But you know something else, I don't make good decisions when I'm in a state of near-apoplectic rage. And it's certainly not a good state to be making some pretty radical changes in norms that were developed over centuries, to protect people accused of crimes from abuses of judicial and political power. Perhaps it's my innate conservatism, but some of the OTT (if understandable) reactions I've been reading online and in the MSM don't seem to be thinking through whether they're going to cause more problems, and be even more open to abuse and unsatisfactory outcomes, than they cure.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 3/02/2007 06:53:00 PM

I've just listened carefully to this morning's RadioNZ interview with John Haigh and now I think I understand why Shipton and Schollum were not put on the stand. Talking about the circumstances in which a defendant's previous convictions could be admitted as evidence, he said: "If the accused attacks the character of the complainant and gives evidence then those previous convictions can be admitted [as evidence]." Given what they said about Louise Nicholas at the previous trial, they might well have fallen into that trap. Looks like Haigh and the other lawyers had a better strategy than Stanaway.

And now fresh allegations have been made against Brad Shipton, by Donna Johnson, who has tried to have her case heard without success so far. Shipton certainly seems the worst of the three, a real nasty prick with a violent fetish about group sex and rape with objects.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/02/2007 10:31:00 PM

Just when I thought things couldn't get any weirder...

A relative of one of the men yesterday cleared of indecent assault says the jurors knew the former policeman was already in jail for rape.

Brad Shipton's brother-in-law Chris Foot told Newstalk ZB: "Jury members approached our family last night, yesterday evening, and actually said that they did know.

"Bear in mind the jury members did approach us, we did not approach them."

Clint Rickards' lawyer John Haigh said the jury would have been aware of the convictions of two of the defendants but had withstood media pressure in reaching their verdict.

[Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10426607]

And what is the reaction of Gooner over at Sir Humphrey's:

The fact that jurors knew of the convictions of Schollum and Shipton does not mean the law should now be changed so that evidence of previous convictions can be led in rape/sexual cases.

It does mean that these acquittals are now very sound verdicts...

[Source: http://www.sirhumphreys.com/gooner/2007/mar/01/jurors_knew_of_rape_convictions_in_police_rape_case]


Somehow, I don't think they'd be quite so warmly disposed towards a tainted jury - assuming Foot is telling the truth, which is a bit of a stretch for me after Sharon Shipton's performance - if it had handed down guilty verdicts on all charges.

There are times I'm flat out embarrassed to be a human being... And I guess it's some small comfort that having morals and ethics as flexible as a Chinese contortionist is not restricted to one side of the political spectrum.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 3/03/2007 01:25:00 AM

On the other hand, it’s not much comfort to be reminded that the legal fraternity is as divided as the rest of the population on matters of ethics and rights, and just as subject to gender bias. For example, on the subject of historical claims, Auckland Law Society President Gary Gottlieb said on TVOne last night:

“This whole PC thing – ‘the poor woman, let’s just lay the charges at any time, whatever’ – well, sorry, the accused person has rights, too, and that’s just being forgotten.”

It’s clear that in this case, the rights of the accused were strenuously protected at all levels.

I wonder if he would be as dismissive of historical child sex abuse allegations?

Posted by Anonymous : 3/03/2007 10:13:00 AM

Anonymous:

Well, Gottlieb is right: People accused of crimes do have rights - including the right to a fair trial, where members of the jury are not 'tainted' by clearly prejudicial information subject to a suppression order.

If these three had been convicted, and the same story appeared you can bet your arse there would be cries of 'mistrial' from Gottleib, the defence lawyers and their supporters - and I'd be joining them. There's a difference between saying 'the status quo is wrong - or just unworkable - and needs to be changed', and condoning it being openly flouted as long as the end result is to your liking.

What really creeps me out is that one of the ADLS's stated aims is, "to protect and promote the interests of the public by ensuring to the best of its ability that the Society's members maintain a proper standard of competence and professional integrity."

I'll leave readers to decide how well it's President is contributing to that, with comments like those.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 3/03/2007 01:39:00 PM

In some ways the verdict does not matter. What I mean is would anyone now allow their teenage daughters near these men? They might not be regarded as rapists by the law, but I for one would not trust them to be anything other than predatory towards women, especially young women.

Posted by Muerk : 3/03/2007 02:31:00 PM

That was my point, Craig; it creeps me out, too.

It's bad enough that women subjected to sexual assault can't always rely on the police to take their complaints seriously, but if senior lawyers can't be relied on to be objective and professional, what are the odds that justice will be done?

Tom Scott's cartoon today sums it up nicely.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/0a17216.html

Posted by Anonymous : 3/03/2007 03:13:00 PM

Anonymous:

Sorry, I was just cross and venting at Gottlieb not you. :) This is turning into another one of those moments where it's interesting - and damn encouraging - how reaction to this case isn't splitting quite as neatly along left/right lines as I thought it would. Also nice to see most people trying to think through some pretty complex and emotional issues raised by this verdict, rather than knee-jerking and breaking a system that's deeply flawed, but worth protecting.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 3/03/2007 05:16:00 PM

Craig, you may also have noticed the even rarer phenomenon of Ian Wishart agreeing with social liberals and feminists on this issue. :) I’m wondering if he’ll be as gracious as DPF, who gave Clark credit for declining to recommend Rickards for the post of Deputy Commissioner. Maybe that’s too much to expect...

On a more hopeful note, perhaps the reaction to these events will be a defining moment in the evolution of our national values and identity, another time when we ask ourselves the question made famous in Greg McGee’s 1981 play, Foreskin’s Lament:

“ WHADDARYA? “

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreskin's_Lament

Posted by Anonymous : 3/03/2007 08:50:00 PM

To be honest I think I differ in opinion from most other people here. While I have my doubts about Shipton and Schollum I'm very confidant that Rikards was innocent.

Louise Nicholas has a history of making up false rape claims including one involving a group of horse riding machine gun toting Maori youths. She claims that after some of the rapes she bled for days but never visited any doctor or nurse.

As for the second complaintant she claimed that she was trying damn hard to get the conviction that Nicholas couldn't. Of the five cops she said raped her she could only name the ones who'd been plastered all over the news. She said Rikards carried her round at a time when he had his leg in a cast.

Beyond that though you have to look all the other allegations and the conviction. Shipton and Schollum have been convicted in a crime where Rikards had no involvment. All the other new allegations are about Shipton and Schollum, not Rikards.

As for whether he should be a high-0ranking police officer I note that wherever he was posted in a position of authority crime rates dropped remarkably. He invented iwi-liason officers and breakfast clubs, things that I/S has praised. Hell the former police-comissioner even called him the best cop he had ever worked with.

Then people say he behaved innapropriately 20 years ago. He did nothing illegal, and I hardly think that infidelity 20 years ago is a serious block to a safe woring environment.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/05/2007 12:18:00 PM

I lived in Murupara duing the time when Bob Schollum was a cunstable there. I was aware of his predeliction for pack rape then, twenty yeasr later my daughter who was a student in the Tauranga Mt Maunganui region during the time that Bob worked there said that it was common knowledge amongst young people that the cops there could pull you up and demand a blow job and threated to smash your tailights and book you if you refused.
In betweenm these times, I also worked in a social service agency in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
We were aware because we were told by women that they had been raped in the police cells in Murupara and Opotiki and that these rapes had been filmed.
Obvioulsy the current charges are the tip of an iceberg,ther are other policemen involved including serving officers now who were named by our clients in the eighties. Any complaints laid at the time only resulted in the named policemen being moved to another area.
These cops knew who to pick on, they selected women on the basis that they were powerless, had already been abused and were obvioulsy at risk by the very people who are paid by our taxes to protect us.

Posted by Dianne Sharma-Winter : 3/26/2007 09:10:00 AM