Friday, August 23, 2013

Judith Collins two-faced on judicial independence

Judith Collins' behaviour in the Teina Pora case has been utterly disgraceful, basically refusing to consider a pardon (despite the overwhelming evidence that the police arrested and jailed the wrong man) as long as he continues to prove his innocence. She's been hiding behind judicial independence on this, saying it would be "inappropriate" for her to intervene while the case is still potentially before the courts. Except that that is exactly what the government did in the Arthur Allen Thomas case, appointing a Royal Commission to investigate his wrongful conviction despite the fact that Thomas' appeal rights had not been exhausted. That's what government should do when there is overwhelming evidence that the police have framed someone: appoint an independent body to sort it out.

Meanwhile, Collins apparently has no problems ordering the Independent Police Conduct Authority - a statutorily independent crown entity not subject to Ministerial direction - to investigate the police in this case (and they've obeyed). I guess her "respect" for judicial independence only applies when it is useful for keeping wrongly convicted victims of police misconduct in jail.

(I support judicial independence. But appointing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate a gross miscarriage of justice is not the same as interfering in the independence of the courts, and it is basically the last backstop in our system. The UK has a statutory entity, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, to review such cases, and I think such a permanent commission of inquiry would be a good addition to our system as well)