Friday, August 08, 2014

"Mr Big" in New Zealand

Yesterday I pointed at a post from Andrew Geddis, about the Canadian police's use of an investigative technique called "Mr Big" to extract confessions. The subtext of Geddis' post was that the New Zealand police were using this tactic, but that the details had been suppressed by the courts.

Thanks to a few helpful people, I can now confirm that they do use it. The police call it "scenario evidence", and its use is a matter of public record. There are details about the technique in R v. Cameron [2009] NZCA 87. In that case, the Court of Appeal found that the confession was not improperly obtained, and the Supreme Court declined review.

They also appear to have used it against Mathew Ellery, resulting in a guilty plea before the case went to trial.

This should be deeply troubling. As the Canadian Supreme Court has just highlighted, "confessions" extracted in this manner can not be considered reliable, and it is impossible for defendants to challenge them in court without strongly prejudicing a jury against them. Using such tactics creates a very real possibility of creating a miscarriage of justice, and by doing so, undermines the justice system (not to mention public trust and confidence in the police). The sooner a court outlaws it, the better.