13 Jun 2015

Miscarriage of justice investigation panel launched

10:10 pm on 13 June 2015

Several high-profile criminal cases may be challenged by a new team formed to investigate potential miscarriages of justice.

The New Zealand Public Interest Project (NZPIP) is a charitable trust made up of legal experts wanting to look into concerns about the country's justice system.

Convicted double murderer Scott Watson has approached the panel to investigate his claims of a miscarriage of justice, as has double-murderer David Tamihere.

The panel has already agreed to look into the Michael October case, who was convicted of the rape and murder of Christchurch woman Anne-Maree Ellens.

The NZPIP will be officially launched at the University of Canterbury this evening and will include guest speakers, Don Brash and John Tamihere.

Sociologist and board member Jarrod Gilbert said cases such as October and Teina Pora had highlighted the importance of establishing a team to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice.

He said the panel had agreed to look into the October case and other cases would be considered "on their merits" before the team committed to them.

Dr Gilbert said countries like England and Scotland had independent review commissions that pursued potential miscarriages of justice.

He said mistakes within the justice system should not be cause for concern, but not being prepared to correct them was "deeply concerning".

Private investigator Tim McKinnel spent years campaigning on behalf of Pora, whose murder conviction was quashed this year more than 20 years after he was jailed for murdering Susan Burdett in her Auckland home.

He said investigating potential flaws in the justice system was a "long and arduous process" but crucial nonetheless.

"In an ideal world, there would be a Government-funded body with legislative powers [to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice].

"So really, the ultimate success [of the NZPIP] will be when we don't have to exist anymore."

Other panel members are forensic scientist, Anna Sandiford; lawyers Nigel Hampton QC, Kerry Cook, Duncan Webb and the University of Canterbury's dean of law, Chris Gallavin; and Glynn Rigby, the founding director of investigation firm Zavest.