16 Jun 2024

Decision on Scott Watson appeal could take months - judge

9:40 pm on 16 June 2024
Scott Watson in High Court.

Scott Watson has been in prison for murder since 1999. Photo: Pool / John Kirk-Anderson

The decision on double murderer Scott Watson's latest - and possibly last - bid for freedom will not be known for months, the Court of Appeal has indicated.

The court has reserved its decision on Watson's bid to overturn his convictions for the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in the Marlborough Sounds in 1998.

Watson has said flaws in the original investigation and trial led to a miscarriage of justice and continue to haunt everyone connected with the case.

During a five-day hearing, which finished on Friday, his lawyers said Watson was not asking for a retrial over his convictions for the murders.

Too much time had passed, too much evidence had been shown to be hopelessly contaminated and some key witnesses were now dead, they said.

In his closing address on Friday, defence lawyer Nick Chisnall said Saturday marked the 26th anniversary of Watson's arrest.

The defence case centred on criticism of two pieces of evidence linking Watson to the murdered pair - two hairs from Olivia Hope and an eye witness identification - which Watson's lawyers argued were so flawed, they should never have been put to the jury.

The Crown had failed to square up critical problems with eye witness identification and the potential contamination of DNA evidence.

However, Crown lawyer Madeleine Laracy said speculation or "new possibilities" did not count as cogent evidence.

"Cogent new evidence is evidence that poses a significant challenge to the trial evidence, powerful new evidence, also described as that which could have changed the outcome at trial.

"And I say the identification of new factual possibilities, if they only remain at the level of possibilities on the facts, will not be sufficient to meet the cogency test. It will not have that character of significant challenge to the trial evidence.

"And there is no new evidence of that character before the court."

Justice Christine French, speaking on behalf of the panel of justices, said any decision would be months away, rather than weeks.

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