18 Aug 2023

Alan Hall to receive $5m from government for wrongful conviction

2:52 pm on 18 August 2023
Alan Hall's two brothers, Geoff and Greg, accompanied by their two lawyers speak about the apology and compensation for their wrongly convicted brother.

Alan Hall's two brothers, Geoff and Greg, accompanied by their two lawyers speak about the apology and compensation for their wrongly convicted brother. Photo: RNZ / Jordan Dunn

Alan Hall's family say it's a "proud day" after it was announced the government will pay Hall almost $5 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment for murder.

Associate Minister of Justice Deborah Russell says the government accepts his innocence and apologises unreservedly.

Hall spent nearly two decades in prison after being convicted in 1986 of the murder of Arthur Easton, a crime he always maintained he did not commit.

His murder conviction was quashed by the Supreme Court in June 2022.

Alan Hall's family and supporters have held a media conference this afternoon, watch it here:

Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann said it was a trial gone wrong, and that there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice and he should be acquitted.

She said the Crown failed to disclose all evidence, which weakened the defence's case, including statements from witnesses about the ethnicity of a person seen, and evidence about which was the assailant's dominant hand.

The evidence from the police interrogation of Hall should have been excluded, she said, because they went on for too long, without a lawyer, and at times without any recordkeeping.

Winkelmann said to conclude, it was clear that justice had seriously miscarried - either from extreme incompetence, or a deliberate strategy to achieve a conviction.

In the nearly four decades Hall and his family spent trying to clear his name, his mother sold the family home to fund his defence and died fighting to prove her son's innocence.

"I recognise that Mr Hall suffered significant losses as a direct result of his wrongful convictions and imprisonment," Russell said.

"I acknowledge that the apology and compensation can never completely remedy the injustice Mr Hall has suffered. But I hope they go some way in helping Mr Hall rebuild his life and will enable him to pursue the things he wants to.

"New Zealand has a strong justice system, one which New Zealanders can continue to have faith in. On this occasion, an injustice was delivered to Mr Hall, and we are acknowledging that today."

In September 2022, retired High Court Judge Rodney Hansen CNZM KC was appointed to provide independent advice on Hall's application for compensation and the question of his innocence.

In February this year, Hansen concluded that Hall had established he was innocent of the charges for which he was convicted, and in June recommended an ex gratia payment of $4,059,725.75 under the 2023 Compensation Guidelines for Wrongful Conviction and Detention.

Hansen also recommended an additional payment of $874,000 to recognise Hall's losses for the period he spent on parole between 1994 and 2012, though it was outside the guidelines, which Cabinet accepted.

'We have an apology'

Speaking after the government announcement, Hall's brother Geoff Hall said they had achieved a moment their mother had been fighting for since the initial arrest.

"We're really pleased about that. We have an apology, Alan can walk free, head high, and it's a special moment."

He wanted to thank the team that supported the family and Alan through the process.

"We would like to find out how this happened to Alan, we don't want this to happen again to anybody, it's not fair on any New Zealander to go through what we went through and what road that takes, we are unsure.

"Alan says hi as well, he's a happy man."

He said the apology was the focus.

"It's Alan's innocence coming forward. He can say to everybody that 'I did not do this' and we have proof behind that showing that he had nothing to do with this. That's the big thing. Alan Hall can walk around an innocent man."

He said their mother would be feeling tremendous, proud and delighted that her son had been vindicated.

Supporter Tim McKinnel said it was "no easy thing for somebody from the Crown, a minister and a secretary of justice came and spoke to family".

"It was heartfelt, genuine and I think it's something that Alan, Geoff and Greg have waited 37 years for and to finally have today and the words spoken by the minister and the secretary of justice were hugely touching and meaningful."

McKinnel said such cases were difficult and there were many people over many decades who had contributed to the result today.

"We are the ones standing here today talking about it but the reality is dozens of people contributed to this fight and they need to be thanked and acknowledged."

Geoff Hall said the compensation would be a foundation for his brother to "do what he wants to do".

Lawyer Nick Chisnall said the victims deserved to have the "real killer" caught.

Hall wanted that for them, too, he said.

He would not comment on any ongoing police inquiries.

The process felt like it took too long, "but it's a robust process and one that's been strenuously conducted, and I think it's one that's gone a long way to restore faith in the criminal justice system".

"It won't give Alan back those 37 years and it's taken too long and I think there needs to be questions asked about why it's taken so long to remedy what is such an obvious miscarriage of justice, but I think a large measure of faith has been restored."

Asked if a royal commission of inquiry was required, Geoff Hall said he wanted to see one and thought it was "important for all New Zealanders to know what has happened in their judicial system to bring a person through this process. What took place and how to remedy those processes".

Greg Hall said Alan took the apology "really well".

McKinnel said Alan would likely next take time to reflect.

"He's got dreams, he has to rebuild his life. He went to prison in his early 20s, he's been labelled a murderer for 37 years, he's going to take a bit of time to work out what he wants from the rest of his life and he wants to take care of his family.

"It's no secret that Alan's mum sold the family farm to help fund his efforts to prove his innocence and he feels a debt to the whole family and he wants to make sure he looks after them as well."

Chisnall said it was important to learn from the saga.

"I'd like to think our system is better than it was when this happened. We've got a Criminal Cases Review Commission that will offer a robust process that ensures this doesn't happen again.

"But I'm sure that those who are in positions of authority will welcome an inquiry at some point to look at the complete picture and ensure that this doesn't happen again."

McKinnel said one of the things Alan was clear about was that there were others in the same situation as him.

"And the fight will go on for them.

"As it stands, there isn't really a process to properly review cases like Alan's and how catastrophically so many arms of the justice system went wrong over such a long period of time."

Greg Hall said it had been a long journey with "dark days and the good days".

"It is a long journey with lots of interesting happenings along the way. Reaching today is surreal ... you always feel like there's more to do, but I think it's done. That's it."

Geoff Hall said at some point he accepted what had happened to Alan and the family, and the fight "turned from something that was very difficult to some that we had to do".

"We had to do it for Alan, we had to do it for the Eastons, we had to do it for the people in Papakura, we had to highlight what had happened and it turned into something that was right, and when you have that feeling you just want to drive forward and it takes away a lot of the stress because your end goal is just so rewarding."

"Today... was a really good day. Our mum needed this, and it's delivered."

Greg Hall said next on the agenda for Alan was a trip for a birthday party.

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