Friday, June 25, 2021

No confidence without transparency

On Tuesday, RNZ published a major story about the police killing of Shargin Stephens, which suggested that the police had engaged in a sustained campaign of their harassment against their victim, then lied to the IPCA about it, as well as manipulating evidence of the killing. The allegations are serious and deserve a full investigation. Now the Coroner has banned all future coverage of the story. Why? We're not allowed to know:

[The Coroner] said the reasons for his decision were set out in a separate minute but a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said that document was covered by the prohibition order so could not be released.
So any investigation of this police killing, or any decision on whether there even is an investigation, will be held in secret, with no reasons given. If they wanted to give the impression of a system protecting itself and its agents from scrutiny and accountability, they couldn't have done a better job. The problem is that, as with other secret trials, the public has no reason whatsoever to place any confidence in the verdict, and if the Coroner refuses to investigate, or clears the police in secret, it will just look like a corrupt stitch-up, and the smell will never go away.

We all know the saying: "justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done". Open justice isn't just about providing easy copy for the media; it is about ensuring public confidence in the outcome. Without transparency, there can be no confidence, and there will always be the suspicion that there was never any justice at all.