David Bain’s wikipedia page unbalanced, biased & misleading

wikiDavid Bain’s wikipedia page is so biased it breaches one of wikipedia’s five key pillars – the one on neutrality. For the real story, with details about every aspect of the case and the people involved, click here.

Wikipedia has strict policies about the nature and quality of information or pages added to its website. The articles are supposed to be written from a neutral perspective, presenting all the major points of view, especially on controversial subjects. This is how wikipedia describes neutrality:

“All encyclopaedic content on wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic…  

Biased (or one-sided) information can usually be balanced with material cited from other sources to produce a more neutral (or balanced) perspective…

When reputable sources contradict one another, and are relatively equal in prominence, describe both points of view and work for balance.”

Wikipedia also has a policy called BLP – biographies of living persons. It says:

“Editors must take particular care when adding information about living persons to any Wikipedia page. We must get the article right… Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, not a tabloid: it is not Wikipedia’s job to be sensationalist, or to be the primary vehicle for the spread of titillating claims about people’s lives.”

However, the wikipedia page about David Bain is far from neutral or ‘right’.  The following describes some of the problems with the page:

1) The title of the page – Bain family murders – is deliberately misleading:

Wikipedia notes that: “In some cases, the choice of name used for a topic can give an appearance of bias.” In David Bain’s case the title, Bain family murders, implies that all those who died, including Robin Bain, were murdered. It therefore points the finger at David. In so doing, it negates the alternative option put forward by the defence, that Robin Bain killed his family and then committed suicide.

The page should either be called David Bain, which, by itself, does not accuse him of anything, or possibly called the Bain familicide which is how family killings are described by criminologists – and which doesn’t point the finger at any one person.

balance2) Lack of balance in content

a) More information describing the guilty verdict than the non-guilty verdict.The article has five paragraphs describing what happened at the first trialat which David was found guilty. The section on the retrial, at which David was found not guilty, contains only two sentences. The retrial section does not mention any of the information presented by the defence which was the basis for the not guilty verdict. It simply says he was found not guilty – as if it was some kind of fluke.

privy-councilb) Key information missing from Privy Council section.The section on thePrivy Council mentions nine points that David’s defence team presented to the Privy Council but doesn’t describe any of them in any detail. As a result, the article omits all the information necessary for the reader to understand why the Privy Council came to the conclusion that there had been a miscarriage of justice.

The section on the Privy Council contains only one paragraph about what happened. There is more information detailing the case against David in the first trial (where he was found guilty), than in the Privy Council hearing and the retrial combined.

c) The section on Joe Karam has been removed.  Joe Karam played a key role on David’s long battle for freedom and then fought for his compensation once he was released. There should be a separate section describing his involvement in the case. But he gets only three lines in passing under the section headed appeals.  This means the extensive evidence that Karam put together suggesting that David was innocent and that Robin was the likely killer is entirely missing from the page.

d) The section on compensation also omits key information:

compAbout the judges. There is no mention of the vastly differing reputations of the two judges charged with investigating David’s compensation claim – Ian Binnie and Ian Callinan. Binnie had an impeccable reputation as an international jurist; Callinan had a very dodgy reputationand, by all accounts, was only appointed as a judge in Australia because of his conservative views. He seems to have been appointed to adjudicate Bain’s compensation claim for the same reason.

About the quality of Callinan’s report. Although the article contains some analysis of Binnie’s report (by Judith Collins and Robert Fisher), there is no analysis of Ian Callinan’s conclusion that David had not proved his case. Joe Karam pointed out that Callinan’s report contained many of the same errorsthat Binnie was accused of making, which is why he and the defence team were going to challenge it in court – until David decided to accept the $925,000 non-compensation offered by the Crown if he gave up all further legal action.

About Judith Collins.  Judith Collins’ decision to give a copy of Binnie’s report to the Solicitor General and the Police is mentioned but her decision not to give a copy to David’s defence team is not. Although the article says that Bain subsequently filed a claim in the High Court alleging Collins had breached natural justice, it doesn’t say why; and there is no indication of the controversy this caused or the bias that Collins displayed in handling the case.

Although the article mentions that the public mostly thought Bain should receive compensation, there is no mention of the criticism from numerous academics about the Government’s handling of the compensation claim which, in the end, involved three lengthy reports and cost just as much in legal fees as David got paid out.

Not only did David struggle to find justice in New Zealand, he won’t find it on his Wikipedia page either.

Crime in New Zealand wikipedia page

The current wikipedia Crime in New Zealand page is a vandalised version of the information below.  The wikipedia page was attacked on 19 May, 2015 by an Australian editor calling himself Nick-D who doesn’t like my contributions to wikipedia on New Zealand justice issues. 

Nick-D blocked me from editing Wikipedia indefinitely in May 2013. However, I was able to continue editing under a different pseudonym. Whenever Nick-D finds out I have contributed something to an article, he deletes the new content. He is willing to remove accurate, well-referenced information simply because of a personal grudge – thereby diluting the quality of wikipedia pages about justice issues in New Zealand.

I have posted the pre-vandalised wikipedia page about Crime in New Zealand below because it contains a great deal more information than the current wikipedia page. If you want to restore the version below to wikipedia, try clicking on the Undo button next to Nick-D’s pseudonym. However, being the pig-headed individual that he is, he will probably ‘undo’ your undo. 

Crime graphIntroduction

Crime in New Zealand is generally measured by the number of offences being reported to police per 100,000 people. However many crimes go unreported, especially sexual crimes, and do not appear in official statistics.[1] Crime rates in New Zealand rose for much of the 20th century but began to decline during the 1990s (see graph). The decline continued into the 21st century and, in 2013, the recorded crime rate was the lowest it has been in 29 years.[2] 

Despite the drop, crime often dominates much of the political debate in New Zealand. The media often focus on violent crime even though a relatively small proportion of criminal offending involves murder or serious violence.[3] This leads to misperceptions that crime is increasing and generates public apprehension and fear of being a victim of crime, as opposed to the actual probability of being a victim.[4] Victimization surveys collect information about people’s perceptions of crime and the criminal justice system and tend to give much higher figures than reported crime.

Crime statistics

Crime statistics in New Zealand are collected in different ways. Each method provides a different type of information and has different limitations which is why so many claims about crime trends reported in the media are inaccurate or misleading.[5] For instance New Zealand Police publish monthly statistics for a range of crime indicators,[6] as well as statistical reports for each calendar (ending 31 December) and fiscal (ending 30 June) year.[7] Historically, the Police have published crime statistics with its annual reports, from as early as 1900. Statistics New Zealand also publish crime statistics, based on Police data, in a web application that can produce statistical tables for each offence code.[8] Statistics New Zealand also publishes the results of its own research and analysis of crime statistics, based on data from Police, the Ministry of Justice and its own surveys. From 1 July 2010, statistics for the New Zealand Justice sector began using the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) to classify and aggregate offence statistics.[9]

Victimisation surveys

The Ministry of Justice has conducted Crime and Safety Surveys in 2006 and 2009[10] to assess victimisation rates as well as other research about crime in New Zealand. Victim surveys tend to suggest that less than a third of ‘crime’ is actually reported to Police which is consistent with victimisation surveys in similar countries such as Australia, Britain and the USA.[11] However, victim surveys also include reports of relatively minor matters which would not necessarily be seen as crimes by the justice system so interpretation of the figures is difficult.[12]

Resolution statistics

Between 1998 and 2007, the police became more effective at resolving crimes such that the resolution rate has gone from about 36% of all reported crimes to nearly 50%. The trend has not continued and in 2012 the number of cases resolved dropped to 47%.[13] For serious violence the resolution rate has gone from 71% to 80% and the murder resolution rate has gone from 62% to 91%. In the longer term, the percentages of resolved murder cases will be even higher as the Police report, that over time, they resolve close to 100% of all murder cases reported to them.[14]

Crime rates

In the 20th century

Despite different means of measuring crime, the statistics show that crime rates in New Zealand rose through most of the twentieth century, following similar patterns in other Western countries. [15][16] Towards the end of the century, the rate dropped and has stabilised or continued to drop slowly since then.[1] There has been much speculation about the causes of the turnaround. The impact of economic downturns, unemployment rates, local disasters, better security, changing demographic patterns, increased policing and various changes in the culture and life-style have all been examined. Collectively, all these factors may play a part.[17]

In the 21st century

The crime rate has continued to decline in the twenty-first century. In 2010, the number of murders in New Zealand dropped by nearly a quarter over the previous year (from 65 to 46), while overall reported crime fell 6.7 percent.[1] In 2011, New Zealand’s recorded crime rate was at its lowest in 15 years, down another 5.6% on the figures from 2010.[18] In 2012 (financial year), the crime rate dropped another 5.9 per cent on the previous year – taking into account an increase in the population of 0.7%. Homicide and related offending dropped by 21.5%.[19]

The total number of offences in 2012 was the lowest since 1989, and gave the lowest crime rate per head of population since before electronic records were maintained. Police said the largest decrease was in Canterbury, where recorded crime fell by over 11% – due to a large decrease in recorded theft and property damage offences immediately after the Christchurch earthquakes. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean crime actually dropped. Deputy Police Commissioner Viv Rickard said “This decrease appears to be partly due to the public not wanting to bother us with minor matters when they knew we were dealing with the earthquake.[19]

Factors contributing to reduced crime

Sir David Carruthers, a former Chief District Court Judge and now head of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, says the drop in the crime rate in New Zealand is partly due to a drive to reduce the number of teenagers being suspended or expelled from school. Around 70% of the most serious youth offenders are not in school, and keeping them involved in education is the best way to reduce offending. Education Ministry figures show that school suspension rates have been declining for at least 12 years, from 7.9 for every 1000 students in 2000 to 5.2 in 2011. The decline has been most dramatic for Maori students – down from almost 20 to under 12 for every 1000 Maori students.[20]

Kim Workman of Rethinking Crime & Punishment says another factor is the changing demographic in society; youths aged 18 to 24, who commit most crime, are a declining proportion of the ageing population. Recent changes in police strategy have also reduced the number of prosecutions in the past two years. Police are using diversion and warnings more frequently instead of charging minor offenders and are issuing safety orders for less serious domestic situations – which allow an offender to be ordered out of the house for up to five days without recording this as an offence.[20] Figures released in 2012 show police have issued more than 32,000 warnings for petty crimes, resulting in a 10% drop in charges before district courts. The warnings are most commonly used to resolve disorderly behaviour and breach of liquor ban offences.[21]

Police Minister Anne Tolley believes the decrease in crime is due to increased frontline policing and prevention. In 2014, she said: “Police foot patrols increased by 155 per cent over the last two years, and officers are now equipped with smartphones and tablets which allow them to input and access important information without returning to the station. This is delivering an extra half a million frontline police hours every year, or the equivalent of 354 additional officers.”[22]

Public perceptions of crime

New Zealand perspectives

Despite the drop in crime, many New Zealanders continue to believe that violent crime is out of control. A Ministry of Justice study in 2003 found that 83% of New Zealanders held inaccurate and negative views about crime levels in society and ‘wrongly believed’ that crime was increasing.[23] A more recent study in 2009 by Dr Michael Rowe, also from Victoria University, found “an overwhelming public belief that crime has got worse” despite New Zealand’s murder rate dropping by almost half in the past 20 years.[24] Reflecting the depth of these misperceptions, between 2006 and 2009, only 57% of New Zealanders reported feeling ‘safe’.[25] This means that despite reductions in crime, and despite our international standing as a peaceful country with high levels of human development, New Zealanders feel no more secure than the citizens of former communist states like Bulgaria (where only 56% feel safe) and Albania (54%). New Zealand is also on a par with Middle Eastern countries like Iran (55%) and Lebanon (56%) and African countries such as Angola (53%), Nigeria (51%) and Uganda (51%).[26]

International perceptions of NZ

New Zealanders’ perceptions of safety are also out of sync with the way the country is perceived internationally. In 2010 and 2011, New Zealand topped the Global Peace Index issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace – out of 149 countries.[27] The index is based on 23 indicators including corruption, violence, crime rates, military spending and access to primary education. According to the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, New Zealand is second to Denmark as the least corrupt nation in the world[28] although there are different views on this – see Corruption in New Zealand.

Characteristics of victims

A victim survey undertaken in 1996 found that 67% of the population were not subject to any criminal activity, 14% suffered from two or more criminal offences, and 4% had been the victim of five or more criminal activities.[29] The New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey conducted in 2006 showed that Māori have a much higher risk of victimisation than other groups. The figures showed that each year around 47% of Māori were victims of crime and Māori were also more likely to be victimised multiple times (4.3 incidents per victim compared with 2.7 for European victims). The risk of victimisation for Māori was particularly high for serious offences, including sexual violence and violence by partners. For example, 8% of Māori women experienced sexual victimisation – twice as high as the national rate for women (4%).[30]

Analysis of the 2006 New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey showed that a number of factors contribute to the high rate of victimisation of certain groups of Maori over other Maori. These included being young, being on a benefit, being single, living in a sole-parent household, living in neighbourhoods with high social disorder and being female.The survey also that offences involving violence by strangers and damage to property were less likely to be reported and that four in ten Māori were unable to name any community service that was available for victims.[31]

Characteristics of offenders

Offenders can be classified according to their individual characteristics or from a population based perspective.

Common characteristics

Lord Bingham, former Chief Justice for Britain and Wales describes the profile of a typical offender like this: “He is usually male, often of low intelligence, and addicted to drugs or alcohol, frequently from an early age. His family history will often include parental conflict and separation; a lack of parental supervision; harsh or erratic discipline; and evidence of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. At school he will have achieved no qualification of any kind, and will probably have been aggressive and troublesome, often leading to his exclusion or truancy. The background will be one of poverty, poor housing, instability, association with delinquent peers and unemployment”.[32] This description applies equally well in New Zealand although it does not take account New Zealand’s particular ethnic situation.

Over-representation of Maori

New Zealand’s crime statistics are compounded by the over-representation of Maori at every stage of the criminal justice process.[33] Though Maori make up only 12.5% of the general population aged 15 and over, 42% of all criminal apprehensions involve a person identifying as Maori, as do 50% of those in prison. For Maori women, the picture is even more acute: they comprise around 60% of the female prison population.[33] The rate of imprisonment for Maori is over 700 per 100,000 of Maori in the community, seven times higher than the rate for non-Maori which is around 100 per 100,000.[33] This gives New Zealand an overall imprisonment rate of just under 200 per 100,000 of its population.[34]

These statistics are open to a variety of interpretations. A report by the Corrections Department says: “The figures lend themselves to extremist interpretations: at one end, some accuse the criminal justice system of being brutally racist, as either intentionally or unintentionally destructive to the interests and well-being of Māori as a people. At the other, there are those who dismiss the entire Māori race as constitutionally ‘criminally inclined’.”[33]

The drivers of crime

Family dysfunction

A forum held at Parliament in 2009 on the Drivers of Crime in New Zealand identified mainly socio-economic factors contributing to crime such as: “Family dysfunction; child maltreatment; poor educational achievement; harmful drinking and drug use; poor mental health; severe behavioural problems among children and young people; and the intergenerational transmission of criminal behaviour.”[35] The forum noted that “Many of these issues are concentrated within socially and economically disadvantaged families and communities.” In New Zealand, it seems these life circumstances are more likely to affect Maori families than non-Maori – which contributes to the comparatively high rates of offending by Maori.[33]

Alcohol and drug abuse

In 2010 the Law Commission released a report on the social destruction caused by alcohol in New Zealand and quoted district court judges who said that 80% of all offending in New Zealand occurred under the influence of alcohol and drugs.[36]

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

An associated risk factor is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) caused by the mother drinking while pregnant. This can cause damage to the frontal lobe of the baby’s brain resulting in learning disabilities and lifelong physical, mental, and behavioural problems. Researchers at the University of Washington have estimated that more than half of children born with FASD encounter trouble with the law, whilst 35% are incarcerated at some stage during their lifetime. Canadian research with young offenders has found that more than one fifth are behaviourally impaired due to the condition.[37] In New Zealand up to 3000 children a year are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.[38] Auckland Judge, Tony Fitzgerald, has called for greater public and professional awareness of this issue and the need for better assessment and support facilities to respond to the high offending rates of individuals affected by FASD.[37]

Traumatic brain injury

A range of developmental and early-age risk factors are known to be associated with a developmental pathway that increases the risk of (among other things) criminal involvement. One of them is suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a child. Professor Randolph Grace of the University of Canterbury, and Dr Audrey McKinlay from Melbourne’s Monash University, studied children in Canterbury who had received a head injury before the age of 17. They found that moderate to severe TBI led to ‘higher levels of malevolent aggression’ and was a significant predictor of offending behaviour.[39] About 36,000 new cases of TBI occur every year in New Zealand surpassing the number of heart attacks and more than five times the number of strokes. The number of cases is significantly higher than in other developed countries, and those most at risk are children, young adults, men, Maori and rural inhabitants.[40]

Income disparity

Internationally, the gap between the rich and poor has also been identified as a contributor to crime.[41] It has been argued that as the income gap grows wider, statistics for child mortality, mental illness, teenage pregnancy, crime, imprisonment and a range of other factors all tend to increase.[42][43] This has particular relevance to New Zealand because income inequality has risen sharply since the mid-1980s coinciding with the introduction of neo-liberal economic policies by former Labour Party finance minister, Roger Douglas.[41] A report released in 2011 by the Ministry of Social Development showed the gap had widened even further putting income inequality at its highest level ever.[44] However, care needs to be taken in applying this theory to New Zealand; while income inequality has been growing, the crime rate in New Zealand has been dropping. Other social indicators, including the rate of imprisonment, have been increasing.

Addressing the drivers of crime

In 2009, following the Drivers of Crime forum, the National led Government established four priority areas to reduce crime in New Zealand. This included improving support for maternity services and early parenting, addressing conduct and behavioural problems in childhood, reducing the social destruction caused by alcohol (and increasing treatment options for problem drinkers), and improving the management of low-level repeat offenders.[45]

Early interventions

Improving support for maternity services and early parenting is considered important because conduct and behavioural problems in childhood are an important predictor of later chronic antisocial behaviour, including crime. Interventions the National led Government has adopted in this area include increasing the number of intensive case workers to support vulnerable teenage parents and attempts to improve participation in early childhood education.[46]

Addressing conduct and behavioural problems in young children is also important. The Justice Department says if early intervention with the five to ten per cent of children with the most severe conduct and behavioural problems is effective, this has the potential to reduce subsequent adult criminal activity by 50 to 70 per cent. A key government proposal in this area is the establishment of programmes to strengthen positive behaviour and reduce bullying at school.[47] In 2008 three-quarters of primary school children reported being bullied, ranking New Zealand second worst out of 35 countries in a major international study.[48]In 2012, youth helplines in New Zealand were still being inundated with soaring numbers of bullying-related calls; Youthline reported bullying-related calls jumped from 848 in 2010 to 3272 in 2012. The youth services say schools are failing to protect students.[49]

Reform of liquor laws

To address the harm caused by alcohol, the Government asked the Law Commission to conduct a comprehensive investigation into New Zealand’s liquor legislation. The Commission received thousands of submissions and their investigation took over two years leading to the release of a 500 page in-depth report: Alcohol in Our Lives: Curbing the Harm. The Government incorporated many of the less important recommendations made by the Commission into the Alcohol Reform Bill. However, the Bill was widely criticised by health professionals for failing to address six key evidenced-based recommendations put forward by the Commission.[50] The six included raising the price, making the extra revenue available for the treatment of problem drinkers, banning television and radio advertising of alcohol, reducing trading hours of bars and clubs, reducing the number of outlets allowed to sell alcohol and raising the purchase age back to 20 years.[51][52] A NZ Herald on-line survey showed 80% of respondents thought the Government’s reforms were a ‘token gesture’ or ‘could be stricter’.[53]

When the issue of the purchase age reached the floor of parliament in August 2012, MPs voted to keep the purchase age at 18.[54] Around the same time, Justice Minister Judith Collins also revealed she had dumped a plan to ban the sale of RTDs (ready-to-drink) with more than 6 per cent alcohol content.[55]After meeting with liquor industry representatives, Collins agreed to allow the liquor industry to make its own regulations on RTD’s instead.[56]

The relationship between crime and imprisonment

New Zealand’s imprisonment rate

New Zealand has followed the pattern of many Western countries by locking up more and more of its citizens and the crime rate has fallen. The number of people in prison has been growing steadily for the last 50 years and since 2010, the rate of imprisonment has been just under 200 per 100,000 of population. This gives New Zealand the second highest rate of imprisonment out of 29 countries in the West.[57] New Zealand’s rate is much higher than countries it tends to be compared with, such as Canada (117), Australia (129), England and Wales (154) and is more on par with many third world countries like Morocco (where the rate is 199), Gabon (196), and Namibia (191).[58]

Penal populism

In New Zealand, as in most western democracies, the rate at which people are sent to prison primarily depends on trends in penal policy and sentencing law – in particular laws affecting the availability of community-based sentence options for judges, the use of remand, and the maximum length of sentences for any given offence. Penal policy is inevitably affected by the prevailing political climate.[59] Indeed, Professor John Pratt of Victoria University in Wellington says that while crime is driven primarily by socio-economic factors, the growing rate of imprisonment in Western countries has been driven by penal populism – a process whereby the major political parties compete with each to be “tough on crime” by proposing laws which create longer sentences and increase the use of remand prior to sentencing.[60] The news media contribute to penal populism by sensationalising violent crime[61] and the process is fuelled by victims groups like the Sensible Sentencing Trust vilifying judges, politicians and the Parole Board for failing to lock offenders up or keep them in prison.

In addition to sending more and more people to prison, New Zealand also seems to have had a history of locking people up for relatively minor offences.[62] In 1930, the Under Secretary for Prisons reported that “34% of the total number of persons committed to prison were serving terms of less than one month, 58% for terms of less than three months and 73% were for terms of less than six months”.[63] The proportion of people in prison for serious crimes was relatively small. Even today, 70% of all offenders in prison will be released within seven months.[62]

Prison overcrowding

In July 2009 Dame Sian Elias, the Chief Justice, argued against what she described as the “punitive and knee-jerk” responses to crime because of its potential consequences for prison overcrowding.[64] In a controversial speech to the Wellington District Law Society, she called for a more rational approach to penal policy and said the focus on victims had made courtrooms “very angry places”[65] and had put at risk the impartial system of deciding criminal blame. She also said that if action to address the growing prison population was not taken, Government might be pushed into the use of executive amnesties to reduce the growing prison population.[66] In response, Minister of Justice Simon Power said “The Government is elected to set sentencing policy. Judges are appointed to apply it.”[67]

The cost of crime

The Corrections Department estimates that one criminal with a lifetime of offending generates $3 million in costs to victims and taxpayers.[68] In 2011, the cost to the taxpayer for Police, Courts, and Corrections was estimated at over $3.7 billion a year.[69] This figure does not include the costs incurred by victims such as medical expenses and replacing stolen property. In 2006, when all other costs were included, crime was estimated to cost New Zealand $12.5 billion.[70]However, this figure does not include the cost of white collar fraud and economic crime because the Serious Fraud Office has so far been unable to generate a methodology to calculate the annual cost, although officials believe the cost was “likely to be in the region of many billion of dollars per year.”[71]

Legislation and sentencing

Criminal law

Legislation has a number of purposes – not least of which is to impose penalties and sanctions for breaches of behaviour proscribed by a particular Act of Parliament. New Zealand has codified its criminal law through various pieces of legislation. Most criminal offences that would result in imprisonment in New Zealand are set out in the Crimes Act 1961, including the Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Act 2007 and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 – although criminal offences related to specific situations also appear in other legislation. Less serious breaches of the law are dealt with under legislation such as the Summary Offences Act 1981 and the Land Transport Act 1998 where penalties are more often a fine or other community sanctions rather than imprisonment.

Common law

It is up to the courts to apply particular statutes. In the process they may need to interpret what the legislation actually means and decisions made by the courts create what is called common law. Common law is based on precedents – decisions which are used as a guide, or as an authoritative rule, in later, similar cases. Parliament may subsequently disagree with the courts’ interpretation of a particular statute, and in such situations, may amend the legislation to make its meaning clearer.[72]

Need for better scrutiny

As time goes by, most Acts of Parliament are amended by successive Governments which sometimes creates irregularities in their application and has the potential to create confusion and inconsistency. In 2006 the Law Commission issued a report which said different courts and even different judges were inconsistent when it came to sentencing, particularly for less serious offences in the District Court.[73] Highlighting this inconsistency, research at Victoria University has found that, on average, judges in provincial areas of new Zealand are six times more likely to send repeat drink drivers to prison than judges in metropolitan areas.[74] In one province, drink drivers are ten times more likely to be sent to prison. VUW researcher, Wayne Goodall, says there are “systematically different approaches” coming from different regions, because there is “a problem with sentencing policy”.[75]

Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer believes that when legislation is introduced to parliament it needs ‘more and better scrutiny’ than it currently receives. He says the volume of new Bills being introduced is greater than Parliament can manage and “The quality of legislation is getting worse. Not enough time and effort is spent on getting it right.”[76] Although Parliament is responsible for passing legislation, the courts have responsibility for deciding how laws are to be interpreted and applied – a task made more difficult if parliament has ‘not got it right’.

Sentencing Council

In 2007, the Labour Government announced it would appoint a sentencing council which would be responsible for bringing greater consistency to legislation, and developing sentencing guidelines. The Government had particular concerns that judges were taking an unduly hard sentencing line with low level offenders leading to prison overcrowding. It put $5.8 million towards developing the council over a period of four years, but it never got off the ground.[77] When National won the election in 2008, Justice Minister Simon Power scrapped plans for the Sentencing Council and also scrapped the Criminal Justice Advisory Board set by Labour in response to a recommendation from the Ombudsman.[78]

Law enforcement

Several agencies enforce New Zealand criminal law, although the New Zealand Police is the national agency responsible for enforcing criminal and traffic law, enhancing public safety, maintaining order and keeping the peace throughout New Zealand. The Police frequently co-operate with other enforcement agencies both on a case by case basis and also through multi-agency taskforces targeted at Organised and Transnational Crime. Fisheries, Immigration, Organised Crime, Serious Fraud, Aviation and Border Security all have dedicated enforcement agencies. In addition to Police, road controlling authorities, such as local city or district councils, have the power to enforce their own parking by-laws.[79]


  1. Large drop in reported crime, murder rate, 1 April 2011
  2. Crime rate falls to 29-year low, New Zealand Herlad, 1 April 2014
  3. Gabrielle Maxwell, Changing Crime Rates 1998 -2007, Paper prepared for “Addressing the causes of Offending” IPS Forum February 2009, p 5
  4. Judy McGregor, “Crime news: The cutting edge” in What’s News? Reclaiming journalism in New Zealand, Eds: McGregor, J and Comrie, M., Dunmore Press, 2002, p 88-91.
  5. Gabrielle Maxwell, Changing Crime Rates 1998 -2007, Paper prepared for “Addressing the causes of Offending” IPS Forum February 2009, p 2.
  6. Monthly Statistical Indicators
  7. Crime Statistics
  8. New Zealand Recorded Crime Tables
  9. Progress report for 2009 review of crime and criminal justice statistics: July 2011 p. 10.
  10. Crime and Safety Survey
  11. The NZCASS in an International Context (PDF).
  12.  Gabrielle Maxwell, Changing Crime Rates 1998 -2007, Paper prepared for “Addressing the causes of Offending”      IPS Forum February 2009, p 2
  13.  Fewer crimes committed, solved
  14.  Gabrielle Maxwell, Changing Crime Rates 1998 -2007, Paper prepared for “Addressing the causes of Offending” IPS Forum February 2009, p 4
  15. The curious case of the fall in crime, The Economist
  16. Where have all the burglars gone?, The Economist
  17. Gabrielle Maxwell, Changing Crime Rates 1998 -2007, Paper prepared for “Addressing the causes of Offending” IPS Forum February 2009, p 3
  18. 42,444 crimes reported in Wellington, DominionPost 2 April 2012
  19. NZ crime rate at all-time low – Police, NZ Herald 1 October 2012
  20. Schools do their bit to cut crime NZ Herald 28 November 2012
  21. Warnings reduce court load, NZ Herald 3 December 21012
  22. Crime rate falls to 29-year low, New Zealand Herald, 1 April 2014
  23. Attitudes to Crime and Punishment: A New Zealand Study, Ministry of Justice, Wellington, 2003, pp. 4 & 66
  24. Collins, Simon (7 April 2009). “NZ murder rate halved in past 20 years”New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  25. Human Development Report 2010 – 20th Anniversary Edition, United Nations, p 180.
  26. Human Development Report 2010 – 20th Anniversary Edition, United Nations, p 44.
  27. Peace index ranks Canada 14th in world, The Canadian Press, 8 June 2010.
  28. 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International
  29. Crime in New Zealand: a statistical profile, Parliamentary library
  30. A profile of victimisation in New Zealand, Ministry of Justice website
  31. New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey 2006 – Analysis of the Māori experience, Ministry of Justice website
  32. Tom Bingham, The Sentence of the Court in The Business of Judging, Oxford University Press 2000, p 308.
  33. Over-representation of Maori in the criminal justice system, Policy, Strategy and Research Group, Department of Corrections, September 2007, p 6.
  34. New Zealand, International Centre for Prison Studies
  35. Addressing the Drivers of Crime, Ministry of Justice, 17 December 2009, 2009 p 3, para 14
  36. Alcohol In Our Lives: Curbing the Harm, New Zealand Law Commission, April 2010
  37. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder, Rethinking Crime & Punishment website
  38. Catastrophic damage of alcohol hard to ignore, The Press 3 September 2012
  39. Child’s brain injury could lead to crime later in life – study, NZ Herald 29 November 2012
  40. Epidemic’ of brain injuries in NZ – study, NZ Herald 22 November 2012
  41. Social problems linked to wealth gap: study, NZ Herald 22 November 2010
  42. The Evidence in Detail, The Equality Trust
  43. The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. London, Allen Lane, 5 March 2009. ISBN 978-1-84614-039-6 UK Paperback edition ISBN 978-0-14-103236-8 (February, 2010)
  44. NZ inequality at highest level, NZ Herald 23 August 2012
  45. Drivers of crime priority areas, Ministry of Justice.
  46. Improving maternity and early parenting support.
  47. Addressing conduct and behavioural problems in childhood
  48. NZ schools lead world in bullying Dominion Post 14 december 2008
  49. What needs to be done to reduce bullying at school? NZ Herald 7 May 2012
  50. Alcohol Action New Zealand
  51. Alcohol reforms too diluted for public taste, NZ Herald 28 August 2012
  52. Alcohol bill diluted to an insipid brew, NZ Herald, 29 August 2011
  53. Alcohol reforms ‘watered down’
  54. No age rise for alcohol sales, DomPost 30 August 2012
  55. 6% alcohol limit for RTDs dumped, Dominion Post 23 August 2112
  56. Liquor lobbyists press Collins, Dominion Post 25 November 2012
  57. International Centre for Prison Studies
  58. International Centre for Prison Studies
  59. New penology and new policies, On-line Resource Centre P 10
  60. Pratt, John; Clark, Marie (2005). “Penal populism in New Zealand”.Punishment and Society 7 (3): 303–322. doi:10.1177/1462474505053831.
  61. Judy McGregor, ‘Crime News: The Cutting Edge’ in What’s news? Reclaiming Journalism in New Zealand, Dunmore Press, 2002, p 88-91
  62. Politics and Punitiveness – Limiting the Rush to Punish, Kim Workman Executive Director, Rethinking Crime and Punishment, November 2011
  63. Report of the Under Secretary of Prisons (Wellington: AJHR H20, 1930)
  64. Chief Justice suggests amnesty to clear jails, NZ Herald, 16 July 2009
  65. Editorial: Populist pitch on justice just posturing, NZ Herald 26 August 2010
  66. Dame Sian Elias (9 July 2009). “Blameless Babes – Address to the Wellington District Law Society” (PDF). The New Zealand Herald.
  67. Espiner, Colin (2009-07-17). “Minister tells judge to butt out”The Press. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  68. About Time, Report by the Department of Corrections, Wellington, 2001, p 5.
  69. Simon Power, Minister of Justice, Speech to Institute of Policy Studies ‘Costs of Crime’ forum, 21 February 2011.
  70. Simon Power, Minister of Justice, Drivers of Crime ministerial meeting opening address, 3 April 2009, beehive.govt.nz.
  71. Economic crime costs NZ billions each year, Stuff 12 February 2013
  72. The Role of the Courts, Courts of New Zealand
  73. Sentencing Guidelines and Parole Reform Law Commission website
  74. Justice inconsistent across New Zealand, Wayne Goodall, Victoria University
  75. Place of sentencing factor in severity, Stuff
  76. Sir Geoffrey Palmer, What is Parliament For? New Zealand Law Journal 378 (2011)
  77. National to scrap sentencing council, Stuff 2 August 2008
  78. Criminal Justice Advisory Board disbanded, Scoop 12 January 2009
  79. Bylaw-making and operation, Auckland Transport

Mark Lundy’s wikipedia page

LundyOver the years, I have made numerous contributions to the Wikipedia page about convicted murderer Mark Lundy (right). The information below was on Lundy’s Wikipedia page up until 18 May, 2015. The following day, the page was vandalised by an Australian editor calling himself Nick-D. It is now looks like this.

Nick-D blocked me from editing Wikipedia indefinitely in May 2013. However, the blocking process is ineffective and allowed me to continue editing under a different pseudonym. Whenever Nick-D finds out I have contributed something to an article, he deletes the new content.

I have posted the original page about Mark Lundy below (but added some photos) because it contains a great deal more information than the current wikipedia page. If you want to restore the version below to wikipedia, try clicking on the Undo button next to Nick-D’s pseudonym.

Lundy familyChristine Marie Lundy, 38, and her 7-year-old daughter Amber Grace Lundy were murdered in Palmerston North, New Zealand, on 29 or 30 August 2000. Mark Edward Lundy (then age 43), Christine’s husband and Amber’s father, was arrested and charged with the murders in February 2001.[1] In 2002 he was convicted of the murders after a six-week trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years. Lundy maintained he was innocent and took his case to the Court of Appeal; the appeal was rejected and the court increased his non-parole period to 20 years.[2]

In June 2013 Lundy appealed to the Privy Council in Britain.[3] In its decision, announced four months later, the Council focussed on three main points: the reliability of evidence surrounding the time of death, the accuracy of the testing of brain tissue given the state of the samples and an alternative explanation for the alleged tampering of the family computer.[4] The Council ruled the convictions “unsafe” and ordered a re-trial.[5] Lundy served nearly thirteen years in prison but after the Privy Council decision was temporarily freed on bail.[6] The retrial was held in early 2015. Lundy was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment once again.[7]


Mark and Christine Lundy met at a Scouts and Guides gang show when Christine was still in her teens. Mark was three years older. They married in 1983, and their only child, Amber, was born 10 years later.[8] The couple were part of a group that held wine tastings in each other’s homes and had a wide circle of friends.[9] One witness said Christine had wanted her husband to give up drinking for three months.[10]

Lundy started his working life as a builder and joiner; once he got together with Christine, they set up a business selling kitchen sinks and tapware.[11] Christine did the paperwork and other jobs for the business, and Lundy made fortnightly sales trips to Wellington to visit kitchen suppliers.[12] At the time of the murders, they had been together for 18 years[13] and the kitchen business had on-going debts of about $100,000.[14]

In regard to Lundy’s character, witnesses at the retrial “almost all agreed he was an affectionate husband and adoring father”, although it was also revealed he had been to prostitutes on a few occasions, including on the night that Christine and Amber were killed.[15] At the retrial, statements by Christine Lundy’s late mother, Helen Weggery, and Mark Lundy’s late father, Bill, were read out. This indicated they were both frequent visitors to the Lundy home and believed the couple were ‘well matched and loved each other’.[16]

In 1999, the Lundys tried to buy two blocks of land in Hawkes Bay, at a cost of $2 million, which they intended to turn into a vineyard. Lundy was looking for other investors to help make the purchase and registered a prospectus to raise money.[17] As part of their commitments, they owed $140,000 of penalty interest on the deal to buy the land due to missing settlement deadlines.[18] On one parcel of land, on which the Lundys had missed two deadlines, the final settlement was due on August 30, 2000, the day that the bodies of Christine and Amber were found.[19] Forensic accountant, Reginald Murphy, testified (at the retrial) that at the time of the murders, the Lundys had $439,000 in commitments but “no assets of any consequence” and were effectively insolvent.

The murders

James PangOn the morning of Tuesday, 29 August 2000, Lundy drove to Wellington on one of his regular business trips. He checked into a motel in Petone at around 5:00 pm. Records show his wife or daughter called him on his cell phone in Petone to say they were going to McDonald’s for dinner. Receipts showed they purchased dinner at 5.43pm.[20] The time of death was estimated by pathologist James Pang (right) to be about 7pm. He concluded the deaths occurred an hour and 10 minutes after they ate basing his opinion on the relatively undigested state of Christine and Amber’s stomach contents.[21]

Lundy made a cell phone call from Petone to a business partner of his Hawke’s Bay wine-making venture at 8.28 pm.[20] The computer at the Lundy home was switched off at 10:52 pm.[22] Witnesses, including a next door neighbour, described seeing lights on in the Lundy house about 11pm (but they were off the next morning when Christine’s brother came round to the house.) At 11:30 pm, Lundy called an escort service in Petone and the escort was driven to his motel.[23] Afterwards, she called the agency and at 12.48am was picked up by a driver.[24]

Christine’s brother went to the house at about 9:00 the following morning after Lundy called and asked him to check on Christine who was not answering her phone. The brother broke into the house and found the bodies of Christine and Amber bludgeoned to death. Christine’s body was on her bed; Amber’s was on the floor in the doorway of Christine’s bedroom.[25] Both had died of head injuries caused by multiple blows from what was determined to be a tomahawk-like weapon or small axe.[26] No weapon was found. A rear window had been tampered with and had Christine’s blood on it. A jewellery box was later determined to be missing.

Trial 2002

After a police investigation of six months, Lundy was arrested and charged with their murders. The trial took place in the High Court in Palmerston North.[27]

Prosecution case

The Crown called more than 130 witnesses.[28] They contended that Lundy killed his wife for her life insurance money because of financial pressures, and then killed his daughter because she was a witness. They said that after talking to his wife and daughter on the phone from Petone, Lundy got in his car and drove back to Palmerston North, bludgeoned his wife and daughter to death, changed his clothes, got rid of the evidence, altered the time on the family computer, ran back to his car wearing a blonde wig and then drove back to his motel in Petone at high speed.[29] The Crown alleged Lundy changed the time clock on his home computer so it would look like it was turned off at 10.52pm.[30]

No weapon and no blood stained clothes were ever found and no blood was found in Lundy’s car.[31] However, paint found in the hair of the victims was said by the prosecution to match the paint Lundy used to mark the tools in his toolshed.[32] An ESR scientist who was called to testify said the paint samples were contaminated and no chemical analysis of the paint was done to prove the flecks ‘matched’.[29]

Rodney MillerThe prosecution also alleged that a speck of tissue found on one of Lundy’s polo shirts two months after the murders[29] was brain tissue; the shirt was found along with other clothes and miscellaneous items on the back seat of his car. Although New Zealand pathologists could not identify it as Christine’s brain tissue, a pathologist from Texas, Rodney Miller (left), said it was. Miller used a technique known as immunohistochemistry, a technique he had previously tested on a chicken, to identify the human tissue as brain matter.[33] The prosecution argued the only way this brain tissue could have got on the shirt was if Lundy himself was the murderer. However, the prosecution failed to disclose a report by neuropathologist, Dr Heng Teoh, questioning the reliability of the ‘brain tissue'[34] and other experts subsequently cast doubt on Rodney Miller’s conclusions.[35]

The Crown also relied on a witness who claimed she had seen Lundy in Palmerston North at the time of the crime. Margaret Dance was a 60-year-old woman, who said at the trial she had “psychic powers and a photographic memory”. She lived about 500 metres from the Lundy home and said she had seen a man wearing a blond wig who ‘appeared to be trying to look like a woman’ running on the street at about 7:15 pm. She also said she saw seven other people outside a takeaway shop in the area. Nobody else, including the seven people she described, saw anyone running in the area that night.[36]

Defence case

The defence called three witnesses including Lundy himself, who emphatically denied killing his wife and daughter. He says that evening he drove to the Petone foreshore where he read a book, before heading back to the motel. Once there, he said he watched TV while drinking rum. Around 11.30pm he called an escort agency and spent the next hour with a prostitute who came to the motel.[37]

Lundy’s cell phone records proved he used his phone in Petone at 5:43 pm and at 8:28 pm. A key defence argument was that he could not possibly have made the round trip of 300km from Petone to Palmerston North and back in less than three hours during peak hour traffic – in addition to committing the murders, disposing of the murder weapon and blood stained clothes and changing the time on the family computer.[38] The defence pointed out that there was blood and tissue splattered everywhere including on the walls, the bed and the floor around the bodies but not on his car, his glasses, his wedding ring, or his shoes or other clothes which were “all tested for blood or other tissue and absolutely nothing was found”.

In regard to the ‘minute specks of tissue’ found on the polo shirt two months later, the defence said Christine’s DNA might have got there if she gave him a hug or put away his shirt.[29]


The jury deliberated for seven hours before finding Lundy guilty of the murder of his wife and child.[26] He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years, including time already served.

Court of Appeal

In 2002, Lundy took his case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the verdict was unreasonable and not supported by the evidence.[39] His appeal was not only unsuccessful, the Court increased his non-parole period from 17 years to 20 years. The judges felt that 17 years was insufficient recognition of “the need for very strong denunciation of the killing of Amber as well as that of Mrs Lundy.”[2]

Concerns about conviction

Support of Geoff Levick

Geoff levickGeoff Levick (right), ran a campaign to have Lundy’s conviction overturned for 13 years after reading a story in the New Zealand Herald about Joe Jessup in January, 2003.[40] Jessup, a friend of Lundy’s, was disturbed that five people considered suspects by police at the time were never investigated to the point that they were eliminated as suspects. He became the first to campaign on Lundy’s behalf.[41] The story caught Levick’s interest, and marked the beginning of a lengthy campaign.

Levick used to own a business in the area and visited clients in Petone and Palmerston North, near the Lundy home. He drove the route taken by Lundy dozens of times and says it always took him about two hours. When he heard how quickly Lundy was alleged to have done the trip, he simply didn’t believe it. Lundy would have had only three hours to make the return journey from Petone to Palmerston North, a round trip of approximately 290 km (180 mi), kill his wife and daughter, change his clothes and dispose of evidence.[29] In order to make it back to Petone by 8.28 pm, Lundy would have had to drive to Palmerston North in rush hour traffic at an average speed of around 117 km/h (the maximum open road speed limit in New Zealand is 100 km/h),[29] commit the crimes, and make the return journey back to Petone at an average speed of 120 km/h.[29]

Levick speculates that a creditor of Lundy’s paid someone to go to the house to “teach him a lesson”, but Lundy was not there and matters “got out of hand”.[42] At the retrial in 2015, the Lundys’ former cleaner, Rowena Collett, said she saw a white car with three people in it drive slowly past the Lundy’s house two days before the murders. One of them, a woman, was staring down the Lundy’s driveway and “she thought the woman was being nosey”.[43] Seven unidentified fingerprints and a palm print were also found around the house – but this information was not given to the jury at the first trial.[29]

2012 documentary

In 2012, documentary film maker, Bryan Bruce made an episode examining the Lundy case as part of his series The Investigator. Like others, Bruce concluded that Lundy could not possibly have made the return trip in three hours,[44][45] but he thought Lundy could have made the trip and committed the crimes later that night, returning to Petone in the early hours of the morning.[45] The prosecution presented this scenario as their version of what happened at Lundy’s retrial in 2015.

Appeal to Privy Council

Ten years went by while Lundy’s small group of supporters, led by Geoff Levick, “continued working behind the scenes”.[46] Legal aid was not available and there were difficulties funding an appeal. In 2009, North & South magazine published the results of an investigation into the case by journalist Mike White. White went through all the research and documentation that Levick had accumulated over 13 years, interviewed pathologists and others about brain tissue, and the digestion of stomach contents, and produced an 18 page analysis titled The Lundy murders: what the jury didn’t hear.

David HislopThe article eventually helped persuade David Hislop QC (left) to take the case to the Privy Council.[47] Later that year, Lundy’s legal team announced an appeal was “imminent” but it was not until three years later, in November 2012, that an application was made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council seeking permission to appeal his convictions.

‘Revelation’ of undisclosed document

A few days before the appeal, and 11 years after he was found guilty, a report by a New Zealand neuropathologist, Dr Heng Teoh, questioning the reliability of the ‘brain tissue’ was given to Lundy’s legal team. Police had failed to disclose the report to his defence lawyers, or to the court, at the time of the trial,[48] a strategy known as noble cause corruption. One of the law lords described the discovery of this document as a “revelation”.[49] In the end, the Privy Council decided the science used to identify the speck of tissue found on Mark Lundy’s polo shirt was controversial and there was reason to doubt its accuracy.[50] At the retrial in 2015, the Crown acknowledged they got the timing wrong and argued the murders occurred at least eight hours later – in the middle of the night.

Other issues before the Council included the time of shutdown of Christine’s computer, and the examination of stomach contents used to determine the time of death.[51] Mr Lundy’s legal team submitted that examination of stomach content to determine time of death was internationally discredited as bad science.[52]


The hearing which included Chief Justice of New Zealand Dame Sian Elias began on 17 June 2013. The Privy Council announced its decision in October 2013, declaring Lundy’s convictions “unsafe” in light of the new evidence, quashed the convictions and ordered a retrial.[53]

Release on bail

After his convictions were quashed, Lundy applied for bail. In his decision to grant bail, Mr Justice Young noted that “Mr Lundy has no history of offending other than the two murder convictions which are now quashed.” He went on to say: “Mr Lundy is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He is back to the stage where he is charged and the Crown has not proved a case of murder against him.”[54]

Retrial 2015

The time of death

The retrial began in February 2015 and on the first day, the Crown led by Phillip Morgan Q.C took a different approach to the case. They said they now believed that Lundy drove up to Palmerston North after spending an hour with a prostitute (who left his motel at 12.48am), and killed his wife and daughter in the early hours of 30 August. Pathologist James Pang said it was impossible to pinpoint the exact time of death and so Amber and Christine Lundy could have died at any time within a 14 hour period before the bodies were discovered at about 9.00am the following morning.[55] Defence counsel, Ross Burns, said the Crown’s introductory statement was “an affirmation that Lundy had been wrongly convicted in the first trial”.[56] Mr Burns also said there was fresh evidence implicating someone other than Lundy.

Computer evidence

Evidence by computer experts also contradicted testimony given at the first trial suggesting that Lundy had manipulated the time at which the family computer had been turned off. A former police electronics expert, Maarten Kleintjes (right), and FBI contractor, Troy Kelly, both said there was no evidence the computer had been tampered with.[57] Kleintjes agreed that if Christine Lundy had turned off the computer at 10.52pm, it was not possible that her husband had killed her at 7pm.[58]

The possible motive

Questions were also raised in the retrial about the Crown’s theory on Lundy’s possible motive. In the first trial the prosecution claimed the Lundys had recently increased their life insurance and Mark then killed his wife to claim the insurance and pay off debts. In the second trial, the court was told that a proposed increase in the Lundys’ life insurance policy was initiated not by Mark Lundy but by insurance broker, Bruce Parsons, as part of a regular review. The increase was to be from $200,000 to $1 million each, but the Lundys thought that was too much, and agreed to $500,000. However, the new policy was not in place at the time of Christine Lundy’s death.[59]

The paint flecks

The defence led by David Hislop Q.C (an English barrister originally from New Zealand) began presenting its case on 2 March, 2015. Their first witness was British forensic expert, Gillian Leak, who challenged the prosecution case about paint flecks found in Christine Lundy’s hair. She said she would have managed the risk of contamination very differently from the way ESR forensic scientists approached the crime scene,[60] described practices employed by officers examining Mark Lundy’s car as “unusual”[61] and suggested the police may have inadvertently introduced contamination.

ESR scientist, Bjorn Sutherland, conceded that paint flecks found on and around Christine Lundy’s body could have come from somewhere other than the murder weapon. The court heard that two people, Christine’s brother and an ambulance officer, went near Amber’s body before the police turned up.[62] On the 19th day of the trial, police photographer Sergeant Robin Walker admitted he sometimes left and re-entered the Lundys’ house without changing his protective gear.[63]

DNA evidence

A significant focus at the retrial was on the nature of the stains on Lundy’s polo shirt. Early in the trial, the defence challenged Ross Grantham, the detective in charge of the police investigation before Lundy’s first trial. Grantham acknowledged that New Zealand pathologist Dr Heng Teoh told him, “A man could not be convicted on the strength of one glass slide – they were too degenerative and should remain a mystery.”[64]

Later on in the trial, American pathologists called by the prosecution testified the tissue in the stains was central nervous system tissue. Manchester-based neuropathologist, Dr Daniel du Plessis, agreed the sample contained central nervous system tissue but also said he was unable to tell if the tissue came from a human or an animal, or what gender the origin of the tissue was. Dr Colin Smith, a UK-based pathologist called by the defence, confirmed that central nervous system tissue is allowed in meat products in New Zealand.[65] Earlier in the trial the jury was told that police found a wrapper for a beef and chilli pie in Lundy’s car raising the possibility that the DNA testing done by the pathologists had been conducted on “the spilled remains of a meat pie”.[66]

The court also heard evidence via video link from German scientist Marielle Vennemann. She made wide-ranging criticisms of scientific evidence presented by the Crown especially the work done at the Netherlands Forensic Institute where scientists tried to identify the origin of central nervous system tissue. Vennemann said the tests used at the Dutch laboratory were not yet reliable enough to provide conclusive results for forensic purposes. She also criticised the standards and steps taken to avoid contamination in the American laboratory where the samples were originally processed in 2001.[67]

Other DNA evidence presented at the trial concerned new tests conducted in 2014, in which DNA of two unknown men was found under the fingernails of both Christine and Amber.[68]

Alternative suspects

It was revealed that at the time the murders occurred, a man with mental health problems was temporarily regarded as a suspect. Police had to get a court order to obtain his medical file from MidCentral Health which showed he had been under the care of mental health services since 1998. The man, who has name suppression, has convictions for violence including wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. He lived in the same Palmerston North suburb as the Lundys and was believed to dislike Christine Lundy. At the first trial, police believed the murders occurred at about 7.00pm, at which point the man had an alibi. The prosecution is now saying the murders occurred in the early hours of the following morning.[69]

At the retrial, defence counsel David Hislop, QC, suggested Christine’s brother, Glenn Weggery, had been having an improper relationship with Amber Lundy and accused him of the murders. He said that when police examined his car, blood was found inside the boot. Blood was also found near the driver’s seat and on a towel in Weggery’s truck.[70] Traces of blood were also found in the bathroom of his house, on a pair of his underwear and a handkerchief in his house,[71] which were an 83% match to Christine’s DNA and an 88% match to Amber’s.[72][73]


After deliberating for almost three days, the jury of seven men and five women unanimously found Lundy guilty of both murder charges. Mr Justice France re sentenced Lundy to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 20 years.[74]

Hearing on scientific evidence

After the guilty verdict was announced, it was revealed that Lundy’s team had tried to have complex scientific evidence excluded from the trial. The evidence objected to was from the Netherlands Forensic Institute where tests were developed that were said to show central nervous system tissue. On the basis of newly developed tests, Dr Laetitia Sijen, concluded that tissue found on Lundy’s shirt was more likely to be human than to come from common farm animals. Professor of molecular medicine Stephen Buston, from Angela Ruskin University in the UK, told the jury Dr Sijen did not follow written instructions when conducting tests on the sample and he “would be highly reluctant to accept the results of the [tests] because of the technique that has been applied.”[75]

The president of the Court of Appeal, justice Ellen France, agreed that the type of testing used by the prosecution lacked validation. The other two appeal judges decided there was a compelling argument to allow the jury to hear the evidence.[76]


On 28 April, Lundy’s remaining lawyer, Julie-Anne Kincade, announced that the verdict would be appealed and the appeal would include questions raised about the validity of the scientific evidence presented at the trial.[77]


The cost to the taxpayer of two police investigations and trials has climbed to almost $6 million. The first investigation called Operation Winter, cost just over $1.3 million. Operation Spring, the second investigation, incurred expenses totaling more than $1.7 million. The $3 million spent on these prosecutions included travel on five international flights by detectives transporting scientific samples to international experts. This is on top of known expense claims from Lundy’s prosecution and defence teams which to date has exceeded $2m. [78]

Public perceptions

Of Mark Lundy

Lundy funeralMark Lundy is tall and used to be overweight. At the funeral held for Christine and Amber in 2000, he was seen on national television wearing dark glasses and holding on to friends for support. The way he behaved was judged by some as ‘acting’. Psychologist Nigel Latta, who profiled Lundy in his TV series, Beyond the Darklands said: “His performance at the funeral was ridiculous. It struck people at the time.” Latta even suggested it was “behavioural evidence” indicating Lundy’s guilt.[79] After he was found guilty at the first trial, Lundy was referred to in a magazine article as a “big fat filthy bastard”.[80]

New Zealand Herald journalist, Steve Braunias, is convinced that Lundy’s demeanour and behaviour played a significant part in the outcome of both trials. Writing about the retrial he said: “The science in his favour was strong, and various assorted evidential circumstances further pointed to his innocence.” But he points out the one thing the jury wanted to see again was a video made of Lundy during the original police interview in 2000. “Once again, he was being damned for the way he behaved. It was the funeral all over again.”[81] An article in LawFuel published shortly after the second guilty verdict also focussed entirely on Lundy’s acting ability rather than analysing the evidence.[82]

Of police

Political commentator, Bryce Edwards, pointed out that legal costs of Lundy’s prosecutions cost the taxpayer $5 million and the case should “shake our faith in the justice system”. In a critical analysis of police tactics he goes on to say that “regardless of the guilt or innocence of Lundy, David Bain and Teina Pora, the fact their original convictions were unsafe means the police are failing the public.” He says the police are eager to ensure convictions at any cost, especially in murder cases and there are signs the public view the police as being affected by ‘noble cause corruption’ or a ‘corruption of zealousness’.[83]


  1. Murder accused owed $2 million”TVNZ. 19 July 2001. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  2. Lundy loses appeal, sentence increased”The New Zealand Herald. 13 August 2002.
  3. Mark Lundy’s sister hopeful over appeal bid TVNZ OneNews 20 June 2013
  4. Privy Council quashes Mark Lundy double murder convictions, TVNZ News 7 October 2013
  5. Lundy’s sister constant in supporting him”co.nz. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  6. Mark Lundy and the Presumption of Innocence, Lawfuel, 12 October 2013
  7. Mark Lundy found guilty in retrial for murder, Stuff, 1 April 2015
  8. Mark Lundy murder retrial: Week one in review, Stuff 14 February 2015
  9. Mark Lundy trial: the first week, Radio New Zealand, 16 February 2015
  10. Mark Lundy murder retrial: Week one in review, Stuff 14 February 2015
  11. Clues still sought in Lundy caseTVNZ. 24 February 2001.
  12. What the jury didn’t hear, Mike White, North & South magazine, p 34
  13. Conflicting evidence of marriageTVNZ. 15 February 2002. Retrieved 17 July2013.
  14. Lundy trial: Witness denies deal on vineyard, New Zealand Herald, 17 February 2015
  15. Mark Lundy murder retrial: Week one in review, Stuff, 14 February 2015
  16. Mark Lundy murder retrial: Shift in alleged time of killings highlighted, Stuff, 11 Feb. 2015
  17. Mark Lundy retrial: Trial turns to money matters, New Zealand Herald, 17 February 2015
  18. Mark Lundy murder retrial: Day 7, Stuff 17 February 2015
  19. Mark Lundy retrial: Trial turns to money matters, New Zealand Herald, 17 February 2015
  20. The Investigator: Development in Mark Lundy double murder”. Throng. 17 June 2009.
  21. In-depth look at Lundy case, DominionPost, 9 October 2013
  22. Circumstantial evidence vital in Lundy case, says prosecutor, NZ Herald, 21 March 2002.
  23. Lundy committed to trialTVNZ. 19 July 2001. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  24. Mark Lundy murder retrial: Prostitute – Lundy was nice, Stuff 12 February 2015
  25. Lundy to be tried for murders, NZ Herald, 19 July 2001.
  26. The Lundy murders, Crimeco.nz. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  27. Lundy keen to get bail hearing as soon as possible, Radionz.co.nz. Retrieved2013-10-09.
  28. Lundy prosecution calls final witness, NZ Herald. 13 March 2002.
  29. The Lundy murders: what the jury didn’t hear , Mike White (Feb 2009). North & South.
  30. Circumstantial evidence vital in Lundy case, says prosecutor, NZ Herald, 21 May 2002
  31. Mark Lundy trial: Scrutiny on police conduct continues, NZ Herald, 25 February 2015
  32. Christine Lundy repeatedly struck in her bed, court hears, 16 July 2001.
  33. Brain Tissue at Crux of Lundy Decision”. Stuff.co.nz.
  34. In-depth look at Lundy case, Dominion Post, 9 October 2013
  35. Brain Tissue at Crux of Lundy Decision, Stuff.co.nz.
  36. The Lundy murders: what the jury didn’t hear North & South, February 2009, p 39
  37. What the jury didn’t hear, Michael White, North & South, p 34
  38. Mark Lundy again takes the standTVNZ. 18 March 2002.
  39. Court of Appeal decision
  40. Operation summer: My time with Lundy, New Zealand Herald, 4 April 2015
  41. The courage of conviction, New Zealand Herald, 10 January 2003
  42. Reward offer for evidence in Lundy case”co.nz. 1 September 2009.
  43. Mark Lundy murder retrial: Day 11, Stuff 23 February 2015
  44. Did Mark Lundy kill his wife and daughter?”tvnz. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  45. Doco makes fresh claims in Lundy case”TVNZ. 18 June 2009.
  46. Brain tissue at crux of Lundy decision, Manawatu Standard 8 October 2013
  47. Operation summer: My time with Lundy, New Zealand Herald, 4 April 2015
  48. In-depth look at Lundy case, Dominion Post, 9 October 2013
  49. Brain tissue at crux of Lundy decision, Manawatu Standard 8 October 2013
  50. Lundy keen to get bail hearing as soon as possible, Radio New Zealand, 8 October 2013
  51. Lundy’s appeal – the three questions”The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  52. Lundy back on trial after 12 years, New Zealand Herald, 8 February 2015
  53. Privy Council quashes Mark Lundy double murder convictions”. 7 October 2013.
  54.  Mark Lundy and the Presumption of Innocence, Lawfuel, 12 October 2013
  55.  Lundy retrial: Pinpointing time of death a ‘complete fiction’, NZ Herald, 16 March 2015
  56.  Crown alleges Mark Lundy’s wife, daughter, killed later than previously thought, NZ Herald, 9 February 2015
  57.  Mark Lundy murder retrial: Day three, Stuff.co.nz, 11 February 2015
  58.  Mark Lundy murder retrial: Shift in alleged time of killings highlighted, Stuff 11 February  2015
  59.  Mark Lundy Murder Retrial: Focus on Finances, Dominion Post, 16 February 2014
  60.  Mark Lundy Murder Retrial: Week 4, Dominion Post, 2 March 2015
  61.  Mark Lundy retrial: Day 17, Dominion Post 3 March 2015
  62.  Mark Lundy Murder Retrial: Week 4, Dominion Post, 2 March 2015
  63.  Mark Lundy retrial: Day 19, New Zealand Herald, 5 March 2015
  64.  Mark Lundy retrial: Ghosts haunt the courtroom, New Zealand Herald, 7 March 2013
  65.  Mark Lundy murder retrial: Shirt under spotlight, Dominion Post, 17 March 2015
  66.  Mark Lundy retrial: Shirt centre stage, New Zealand Herald, 18 March 2015
  67.  Lundy murder investigation looked at man with mental health problems, NZ Herald, 20  March 2015
  68.  Mark Lundy retrial: The evidence, and the defence, New Zealand Herald, 10 February 2015
  69.  Lundy murder investigation looked at man with mental health problems, NZ Herald, 20 March 2015
  70.  Mark Lundy murder retrial: Day 13, Stuff 25 February 2015
  71.  Mark Lundy murder retrial: Day 13, Stuff 25 February 2015
  72.  Mark Lundy phoned home after bodies discovered, New Zealand Herald 10 February 2015
  73.  Mark Lundy murder retrial: Day two, DominionPost, 10 February 2015
  74.  http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/67554693/verdict-in-the-mark-lundy-retrial-for-murder.html
  75.  Mark Lundy to appeal double-murder conviction, New Zealand Herald, 29 April 2015
  76.  Mark Lundy tried to appeal scientific evidence to the Supreme Court, Stuff 17 April 2015
  77.  Mark Lundy to appeal double-murder conviction, New Zealand Herald, 29 April 2015
  78.  Mark Lundy convictions have cost taxpayer nearly $6 million, Stuff
  79.  Mark Lundy a bad actor who tried to lie his way out of jail – Nigel Latta, TVOne 2 April 2015
  80.  What the jury didn’t hear, Mike White, North & South magazine, February 2009
  81.  Operation summer: My time with Lundy, New Zealand Herald, 4 April 2015
  82.  Lundy, The Actor, LawFuel, 3 April 2015
  83.  NZ police are failing the public, New Zealand Herald, 5 April 2015

Scott Watson wants access to the media, but just got deleted from wikipedia

When there has been a serious miscarriage of justice, media scrutiny can sometimes lead to a public crusade in favour of the alleged perpetrator.  Arthur Alan Thomas, David Bain and Teina Pora all received intense media scrutiny and, eventually, were freed from prison. But it took a long time and they all needed public exposure and someone crusading on their behalf.  Joe Karam (left), for instance, became an extraordinary advocate on behalf of David Bain. He visited Bain in prison over 200 times and wrote four books about the case.

Investigative journalist, Mike White (below), has also been something of a crusader. He raised doubts about the original conviction of Mark Lundy in a North & South article titled “The Lundy Murders: what the jury didn’t hear”.  Mike whiteAccording to the NZ Herald, Lundy would never have got to the Privy Council if it hadn’t been for Mike White’s article – see Operation summer: My time with Lundy.

Then there’s Scott Watson – in prison for the murder of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in 1998. For the last 17 years he has also maintained his innocence and appealed his conviction all the way to the Privy Council in Britain. A book published by Mike Kalaugher in 2001, a television documentary by Keith Hunter in 2003, and an IPCA report about the case in 2010, all cast considerable doubt on the integrity of the police investigation. Former ACT party leader, Rodney Hide, said Trial by Trickery by Keith Hunter was the most shocking book he had ever read and that it undermined his faith in the New Zealand justice system.

All of this was to no avail. The Privy Council declined to even consider Watson’s case. So now he wants to be allowed to talk to Mike White, in the hope this puts his case back in the spotlight and someone picks up the cudgels on his behalf. But Corrections is refusing to allow the interview on the grounds that the interests of the victims outweigh the public interest – despite the fact that Olivia Hope’s father wants to be present at the interview. So Watson is seeking a judicial review of Corrections’ decision.

Wikipedia page vandalised

Scott WatsonThe basics of the case both for and against Scott Watson (right) are described on his Wikipedia page.  Well, they were – up till 19 May 2015 when most of the page was deleted.  Scott Watson’s Wikipedia page used to read like this. Now it reads like this. Mark Lundy’s Wikipedia page and Teina Pora’s Wikipedia page were also vandalised.  So was the Wikipedia Crime in New Zealand page.

The editor who made these deletions is an Australian calling himself Nick-D. Mr D blocked me from editing Wikipedia indefinitely in May 2013. However, the blocking process is ineffective and allowed me to continue editing under a different pseudonym. Whenever Mr D finds out I have contributed something to an article, he deletes the new content and blocks the new pseudonym.

This is all very strange because Nick-D has a quote at the top of his user page from Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood. It reads:

“There’s one characteristic that sets writing apart from most of the other arts – its apparent democracy, by which I mean its availability to almost everyone as a medium of expression.”

Hypocritical behaviour

So Nick-D appears to believe that writing and editing Wikipedia is part of ‘democracy’ which should be available to almost everyone. But when it comes to the availability of Wikipedia articles about miscarriages of justice in New Zealand, that’s where his commitment to democracy stops. The reason for this hypocrisy is demonstrated by another quote on Nick-D’s user page in which he describes his editing strategy like this:

“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be – or to be indistinguishable from – self-righteous sixteen year olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”

Nick-D doesn’t seem to have the skills to edit constructively on Wikipedia – which inevitably involves arguing with anonymous strangers – so he blocks those contributors he doesn’t like or doesn’t agree with. That’s hardly democratic. The point is – Scott Watson is stuffed. Corrections won’t let him talk to Mike White and Nick-D won’t let anyone tell his story on Wikipedia.

Given the contentious nature of Watson’s conviction, he deserves the right to talk to a reputable journalist. He also deserves to have an accurate description of his case on Wikipedia – as do Mark Lundy and Teina Pora.  Why? Because transparency and integrity are the cornerstones of our justice system.   We all need to know what’s going on. Without that, it’s not just Wikipedia that’s blocked – so is society.  If the political system becomes oppressive or the justice system gets it wrong, our democracy is threatened. It depends on freedom of expression and on ordinary citizens having access the media.

Scott Watson’s wikipedia page

Over the years, I have made numerous contributions to the Wikipedia page about convicted murderer, Scott Watson. The information below (photos added) was Scott Watson’s Wikipedia page up until 18 May, 2015. The following day, the page was vandalised by an Australian editor calling himself Nick-D. It is now a stub (very short article) and looks like this. For the full story of Nick-D’s vandalising activities, see Scott Watson wants access to the media, but just got deleted from wikipedia.

Scott WatsonScott Watson (born 28 June 1971) is a New Zealander who was convicted in May 1999 of the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope on his boat Blade on 1 January 1998 although the bodies of Smart and Hope have never been found. Watson is serving a life sentence with a non-parole period of 17 years.[1] In 2000 he appealed unsuccessfully to the New Zealand Court of Appeal. In 2003 his lawyers Mike Antunovic and Greg King took his case to the Privy Council, which found no grounds for a further appeal.[2]

Watson continues to maintain he is innocent and his case remains controversial. A ‘jailhouse’ witness who testified against him at his trial publicly recanted his testimony shortly after the Court of Appeal hearing. A book published by Mike Kalaugher in 2001, a television documentary by Keith Hunter in 2003, and an IPCA report about the case in 2010 all cast considerable doubt on the integrity of the police investigation.

Family background

Chris WatsonScott’s father, Chris Watson (left), was born in Connecticut and came to New Zealand at age 12. He became interested in sailing through a neighbour in Christchurch. Later on the family sailed round New Zealand for 12 years stopping occasionally for six months to work. Scott grew up in this sea faring environment and bought his first yacht at age 20. He built the Blade himself, which became a central feature of the prosecution’s case, on the family’s property in Picton.[3]

Disappearance of Smart and Hope

On 31 December 1997, Ben Smart (21) and Olivia Hope (17) attended an all-night party attended by 1,500 people to see in the New Year at Furneaux Lodge, in Endeavour Inlet, in the Marlborough Sounds, at the northern point of the South Island of New Zealand. Guy Wallace served drinks in the bar that night and also had a boat he used as a water taxi. Around 4.00am, he picked up Mr Smart and Ms Hope near the yacht, Tamarack in his “taxi”. They were upset that all the berths on the Tamarack had been taken and were eager to get back to shore to find somewhere to sleep. At the time, Wallace had three others on board, Hayden Morresey, Sarah Dyer and a single man who offered Smart and Hope a place to stay on his yacht. Wallace let Smart and Hope off with the single man and then dropped the two other people off at their bach. That was the last time anyone saw Ben Smart and Olivia Hope alive.[4] They were reported missing by Gerald Hope, Olivia’s father, on Friday 2 January.

The police investigation

PopeWallace is adamant he dropped Smart and Hope off at a wooden ketch with two masts, a description which was supported by Hayden Morresey. He also described the unknown man he dropped them off with as unshaven with wavy medium length hair.[5] Detective Inspector Rob Pope (right) took over the police investigation, known as operation Tam, and decided within two weeks that Scott Watson was the unknown man – even though Watson was clean shaven, had short hair and owned a single masted steel sloop (photo below). He said Watson “had the right sort of agenda and pedigree” apparently referring to his criminal record. Just a few days after he arrived in Marlborough, with hundreds of witnesses still to interview, Pope made the statement: “We can be fairly certain that this (two masted) ketch does not exist.”

KetchA number of witnesses who subsequently came forward with sightings of the ketch were either told their information wasn’t wanted or their statements were not followed up.[6] Former detective Mike Chappell, who worked on the case, later claimed officers had been told not to follow up sightings of the two-masted ketch.[7]

The police were also accused of spreading rumours about Watson before they arrested him and using heavy handed tactics on witnesses. Guy Wallace was interviewed for three hours and was repeatedly accused of lying with suggestions by police that he was involved in the couple’s disappearance. Amelia Hope, Olivia’s sister, who had also been at the New Year’s Eve party was reduced to tears by police when they interviewed her.[8]

Watson’s previous convictions

Prior to these events, Watson had 48 convictions,[9][10] mainly from when he was a teenager and mostly for fairly minor offending. This included convictions for burglary, theft, cannabis offences, two of possessing an offensive weapon, and one of assault when he was 16. He had been imprisoned for two short periods in 1989 and 1990. He had just one minor conviction in the eight years leading up to the disappearance of Mr Smart and Ms Hope in 1998.[11]

The Trial

Scott Watson was arrested for the murders on 15 June 1998, about five months later. The trial lasted three months and the Crown brought nearly 500 witnesses in front of the jury. Much of the evidence during the trial in 1999 focussed on the yacht Mr Smart and Miss Hope were alleged to have boarded. The Crown argued it was Watson’s one-masted yacht Blade, but other witnesses including Guy Wallace, maintained he dropped the young pair off at a two-masted ketch.[12] Gerald Hope, who sat through the trial, feels much of the prosecution case was “pure theatre”. There was a prolonged interrogation of his daughter, Amelia, until she burst into tears which Mr Hope described as emotional manipulation of the jury.[13]

Prison witnesses

The testimony of two prisoners, Witness A and B, who had both been in jail with Watson prior to the trial assisted the prosecution case. Both had their names and identifying details suppressed. Witness A shared a cell with Watson at Christchurch’s Addington Prison for several weeks shortly after Watson’s arrest in June, 1998. Under oath, he told the jury that Watson had demonstrated the way he forced Olivia Hope into submission and then strangled her. His evidence, along with that of a second prisoner, was later described in a police-authorised book as “the bombshell of the Crown case”.[14] Witness B never shared a cell with Watson but made a similar claim.

Timing – the two trip theory

Another water taxi driver, Donald Anderson, says he took Scott Watson to his boat in the early hours of New Year’s Day but was vague about the timing. Watson told police he thought he went back to his boat with Donaldson at about 2.00am, but wasn’t wearing a watch and wasn’t sure about the time. Other witnesses testified that Watson was involved in an incident ashore about 3am – which was never in dispute. However, the Crown took Watson’s hazy estimate of 2.00am as accurate and argued that he returned to shore soon afterwards and then got involved in this incident.[15]

This two trip theory was introduced late in the trial rather than being disclosed by police before it began. This meant it could not be tested by the defence. As a result, hundreds of witnesses who were asked about their movements that night were not asked whether they had seen Watson making his way back to shore in the early hours of the morning. If Watson made only one trip, this suggests he made the trip with Donald Anderson after 3.30am and so could not have been the man on Guy Wallace’s water taxi at 4.00am.[15]

The DNA evidence

olivia hopeStrands of hair, alleged to be from Olivia (right), were found on a rug in Watson’s boat. DNA analysis found that one blonde hair was 28,000 times more likely to have come from Olivia than an unrelated blonde female chosen randomly from the population. However, when the ESR scientist first examined the hairs, she found dark ones. Blonde hairs were only found during a second inspection seven weeks later. There was also an unexplained 1cm-long cut in the plastic bag that contained hairs taken as reference samples from Olivia’s bedroom. This raised the possibility that contamination had occurred or that the blonde hairs were planted.[16]


Despite the inconsistencies in much of the evidence presented at the 11 week trial, Watson was convicted of the murders in May 1999.[17]

Court of Appeal 2000

Watson appealed against the convictions, and the case went to the Court of Appeal in April and May 2000. The three Appeal Court judges heard submissions but decided there was no new evidence to recommend a second trial. The Court noted: “It is beyond question that the case against him [Watson] depended substantially on the correctness of those identifications (by Wallace and McNeilly), because if they were incorrect the Crown case was seriously undermined.”[18] They also noted that Watson “made statements to two inmates on separate occasions, each of which constituted admissions of responsibility for the killing of both Ben Smart and Olivia Hope. In one instance he gave a graphic description and demonstration of how the young woman met her death.”[19]

Witnesses recant testimony

In November 2000, after the Court of Appeal hearing, Witness A contacted the Weekend Herald to say his evidence given under oath was “nothing more than an act”. He said he was being threatened by gang members in prison; he was coming up for parole and was put under pressure by police to testify and “I agreed on the basis that my life was getting threatened”.[14] The witness changed his story at least twice more which led Watson’s lawyers to conclude he was completely unreliable.[12]

Witness B never spoke publicly about the case. He had an extensive criminal history but never actually shared a cell with Watson. Journalist Mike White met him and reported that police gave him a phone and car in exchange for his “testimony”.[20]

Another key witness was the Furneaux Lodge bar manager, Roz McNeilly who testified at the trial that she served an unknown man in her bar on New Year’s Eve. She has also recanted her testimony after seeing a police photo which showed Watson was shaved and had short hair. She subsequently signed an affidavit stating that the man she served was not Watson[12] and that the man she served that night had shoulder-length hair and two days’ facial growth. Her description is similar to that of water taxi driver, Guy Wallace, who delivered Miss Hope and Mr Smart, and the man presumed to be their killer, to the boat in Endeavour Inlet.[12] When she realised her mistake she said: “I thought I was helping to catch a murderer – now I feel I’ve put an innocent man in jail.”[13]

Privy Council

Watson then appealed to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. The two main grounds for the appeal were the reliability of evidence identifying Watson as the killer and the way the jury was directed about the evidence by the trial judge. Justice Heron allowed the jury to hear evidence of three witnesses who claimed Watson talked about killing a woman before the murders occurred after that evidence had earlier been ruled inadmissible. The judges on the Privy Council were unconvinced and, in November 2003, ruled there was “no substantial trial error or fresh evidence” and declined to hear the case.[12]

After the decision, high profile defence lawyer, Greg King, who assisted at the Privy Council said “I think it’s one of the most questionable convictions entered by a New Zealand Court.” Watson’s primary lawyer, Mike Antunovic, described the case as one of New Zealand’s “greatest miscarriages of justice”.[21]

Appeal to Governor General

In 2008 Watson wrote to the Governor-General of New Zealand, seeking a pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. Five years later in July 2013, Justice Minister Judith Collins announced that the governor-general had rejected application for mercy on her advice.[22]

Impact of Teina Pora Privy Council decision

In March 2015, Scott’s father Chris Watson said his son’s lawyers had been assembling a team of researchers, scientists and a private investigator. He said Teina Pora‘s success at the Privy Council has given his son’s legal team hope that they can do the same.[23]

Books & documentary

Questions have also been raised about the manner of the police investigation by researchers who have written books about the case. In 1999, journalists Jayson Rhodes and Ian Wishart published Ben and Olivia: What Really Happened. It offers a detailed critique of the trial and concludes “it would be a brave person who believes guilt has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt”.[24]

Marlborough MysteryIn 2001, dedicated yachtie Mike Kalaugher, published The Marlborough Mystery,[25] which focusses on the yachting-related evidence. It throws into question many aspects of the police enquiry and maintains that moving the focus of the investigation onto Scott Watson distracted the police from the pursuit of the mystery ketch.[26]

In 2003, Auckland journalist, Keith Hunter, produced a television documentary called Murder on the Blade? criticising police for the methods they used to obtain the conviction of Scott Watson. It attracted nearly 550,000 viewers and won an award for best documentary at the New Zealand Screen Awards.[27] After the TV documentary was shown, the percentage of New Zealanders who though Watson was guilty dropped to 44%.[28]

Trial by TrickeryIn 2006 Hunter followed up with a book called Trial by Trickery in which he describes the conviction of Watson as “New Zealand’s most blatantly dishonest prosecution”.[29] Dr Robert Moles, former Associate Professor at Adelaide University Law School, described Trial by Trickery as “a masterpiece of critical and scholarly analysis. The reasoning is methodical and rigorous. The argument is sustained and compelling.”[30] Former ACT party leader, Rodney Hide, said Trial by Trickery was the most shocking book he had ever read and that it undermined his faith in the New Zealand justice system.[31]

North & South article

Mike White was a reporter on the local newspaper, the Marlborough Express, at the time of the murders. He spent a lot of time covering the case and got to know the families involved. Initially, he thought Watson was guilty. But in 2007, he authored an article which appeared in North & South article titled Sounds of Disquiet. He quotes Olivia’s father, Gerald Hope, who told him:

“What we got was a conviction but we never got the truth. Nothing ever was confirmed, it was all circumstantial, there was no hard evidence. “I’m not saying [Scott Watson] is not guilty. What I’m saying is let’s clear up the doubt.” [32]

Mr Hope publicly expressed a wish to meet with Scott Watson and look him in the eye. Watson agreed to this but the Corrections Department would not allow it. In January 2014 Watson filed legal papers in the High Court arguing that the Department of Corrections had illegally delayed making a decision which would allow Gerald Hope to visit him.[32]

IPCA Report 2010

A report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority in 2010 was highly critical of aspects of the investigation, led by Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope. In particular it criticised the way police persuaded witnesses to identify Watson as the man seen with Hope and Smart on the night they disappeared. It says the police used photograph montages which breached many of the rules related to proper investigation methods and “exposed the integrity of the investigation to justifiable criticism and to the drawing of inferences about intention and motivation”. The police were forced to apologise to Watson’s father, Chris Watson, after taking four years to deal with an earlier complaint to the IPCA that Pope committed perjury when swearing affidavits to get search warrants. In a press release, IPCA head Justice Lowell Goddard stated that “some actions of police fell short of best practice, and at their most serious, had the potential to influence witnesses”. The report itself was more explicit and found flaws in almost every aspect of the work done by police in their effort to link Watson to the murders.[28]


  1.  Watson appeal goes to courtTelevision New Zealand. 4 July 2000.
  2.  Privy Council rejects Watson case. TVNZ.
  3.  Mike White,  Sounds of Disquiet, North & South magazine, December 2007, p 54.
  4.  Mike White,   Sounds of Disquiet, North & South magazine, December 2007, p 46.
  5.  Mike White,   Sounds of Disquiet, North & South magazine, December 2007, p 48.
  6.  Mike White,  Sounds of Disquiet, North & South magazine, December 2007, p 49.
  7.  Inquiry slams police over handling of Watson case, New Zealand Herald, 15 August 2010
  8.  Sounds of Disquiet, North & South magazine, December 2007, p 50.
  9.  Scott Watson’s wife talks of her love,  TVOne News. 27 June 2004.
  10.  http://www.presscouncil.org.nz/display_ruling.php?case_number=2029
  11.  Mike White, Sounds of Disquiet,  North & South (261): 46–56.
  12.  Watson case rejected by Privy Council, New Zealand Herald, 6 November 2003
  13.  Mike White, Sounds of Disquiet, North & South magazine, p 51
  14.  Witness confesses: I lied about Scott Watson, New Zealand Herald 4 November 20000
  15.  Who killed Ben and Olivia? Sunday Star Times, 17 February 2008
  16.  Who killed Ben and Olivia? Sunday Star Times, 17 February 2008
  17.  Murder, they saidThe Listener (January 5–11, 2008 Vol 212 No 3530)
  18.  Who killed Ben and Olivia?, Sunday Star Times, 17 February 2008
  19.  The Queen v WatsonNZCA 46; [2003] NZAR 193. 8 May 2000.
  20.  Mike White, Sounds of Disquiet, North & South magazine, p 52
  21.  Mike White, Sounds of Disquiet, North & South magazine, p 55
  22.  No royal pardon for Scott Watson, Stuff 9 July 2013
  23.  Scott Watson attempts to clear name, Radio New Zealand, 7 March 2015
  24.  Who killed Ben and Olivia? Sunday Star Times, 17 February 2008
  25.  Sounds case: Police about-turn on mystery ketch, New Zealand Herald, 18 November 2007
  26.  The Marlborough Mystery, Mike Kalaugher, Random House.

Oravida corruption allegations deleted from Judith Collins wikipedia page

Judith with gun

That’s a Glock police pistol and this is a truely creepy photo for someone who’s supposed to be the Minister of Justice. It’s National’s former straight shooter, Judith Collins, who now seems to have lost her political aim.  She’s doing her best to cover up the identity of  the Chinese government official who attended her now infamous dinner party in China – good luck with that!

But is she also trying to cover up the cover up as well? Her wikipedia page has a Reputation section about her ‘hardball’ manner and ‘take no prisoners’ attitude.  But once Oravida is mentioned, the wikipedia description of events begins to sour.  It talks about her embarrassing public apology for failing to come clean with the media about who she met on her recent trip to China and starts with this brief summary:

“In March 2014, Collins came under fire after an overseas trip where she ‘dropped in’ and endorsed the milk produced by Oravida – a New Zealand company which exports to China – of which her husband is a director. Questioned by Labour politicians and media about a possible conflict of interest, she failed to reveal she had also had lunch and dinner with the chief executive of the company and a Chinese government official. After being admonished by the Prime Minister, Collins apologised and stated that she and the executive were ‘very close personal friends’.Over the following weeks the Labour Party continued asking who the Chinese official was. Collins refused to provide his name, which House speaker David Carter described as ‘very unsatisfactory’.”

This sentence has just been deleted: “It subsequently emerged that Collins travelled 30km in the opposite direction to the airport in order to drop in.”  And the following paragraph, which goes into more detail about the Chinese government official, has been deleted entirely – by an editor calling himself (or herself) ‘Nick-D’. Who could that be?

Collins cluedo

“In April Winston Peters revealed that prior to Ms Collins trip to China, Oravida executives had written to the Government asking it to intervene in the Chinese Government’s strict border control measures after the Fonterra botulism scare in 2013.

In parliament the Labour party wanted to know if the Chinese official she had dinner with worked for the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) which is responsible for controlling imports into China. Amid on-going accusations of corruption and a conflict of interest from Winston Peters and Grant Robertson, Collins began avoiding the media waiting for her in the halls of parliament. Because her husband is a director of Oravida, she claimed the media were attacking her family but also said the attacks had ‘humanised’ her. She told the Weekend Herald: “I’ve never been seen as someone who was particularly human.”

It looks like Nick-D doesn’t want wiki readers to know that Collins has been ‘humanised’ or accused of corruption – perhaps that wouldn’t do her reputation as a pistol-packing Minister any good.  By the way, Nick-D has a track history; he (or she) is one of the editors who was previously involved in sanitising Wikipedia pages about David Bain, Mark Lundy, Teina Pora, Scott Watson  – and Corruption in New Zealand.  That story was highlighted in this post: Information about corruption and controversial NZ murder cases deleted from Wikipedia.

JudithI suspect we will never know who naughty Nick-D really is.  In July last year, NZ Herald journalist, Phil Taylor, tried to track down another wiki editor calling himself Clarke43 in Justice Minister’s ‘wikispat’: Who is Clarke43?  That Collins supporter removed a passage from her page about the “embarrassing public spat” between her and Canadian judge Ian Binnie – who was responsible for reviewing Bain’s compensation case. Collins clearly did not like Binnie’s conclusions.

Collins was first accused of editing her own page on Wikipedia in this post: Judith Collins’ staff censoring wikipedia articles on justice issues in NZ?  This was after an editor called ‘JC press sec’ (guess who? – now calling herself Polkadot) deleted potentially embarrassing material about her boss.  Collins defended her press secretary’s editing of Wikipedia pages, saying the revisions were minimal and claimed she only removed defamatory material. Despite removing material from wikipedia, the same information about the spat between Collins and Judge Binnie was widely reported in other media – see Minister defends cutting Bain paragraphs on Wikipedia.

Collins seems to have a lot she wants to hide. It’s beginning to look like a great big wiki white wash – all painted over with Oravida milk.

Information about corruption and controversial NZ murder cases deleted from Wikipedia

Wikipedia pages about David Bain, Mark Lundy, Teina Pora, Scott Watson – and Corruption in New Zealand have been ‘neutralised’ by editors with a hidden agenda.

Judith Collins

It all began in July last year, under the headline, Critic claims censorship on Collins Wiki, when the Dominion Post reported that Judith Collins’ press secretary had been involved in editing the Wikipedia page about her boss.  The NZ Herald was more concerned about cuts made by Collins’ secretary to the page about David Bain: Minister defends cutting Bain paragraphs on Wikipedia . Now cuts have been made to the wikipedia pages about Teina Pora, Mark Lundy, Scott Watson and Corruption in New Zealand.

Mark LundyOn the page about Mark Lundy this entirely factual information was deleted: “Lundy continued to maintain his innocence and in June 2013 appealed to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. Lundy served thirteen years in prison and is now free on bail.”

Scott WatsonOn the page about Scott Watson, someone deleted information about a two masted ketch that was under suspicion at the time of the disappearance of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, including this statement:  “Former detective Mike Chappell, who worked on the case, later claimed officers had been told not to follow up sightings of the two-masted ketch.”

Information about a key witness in the trial has also been cut. ‘Witness A’, who had been in prison with Watson claimed in court that Watson had admitted the murders.  A Wiki editor then deleted this crucial part of the story: “A year later, witness A contacted the Weekend Herald to say his evidence given under oath was ‘nothing more than an act’. He said he was being threatened by gang members in prison; he was coming up for parole and was put under pressure by police to testify and ‘I agreed on the basis that my life was getting threatened’.”

The IPCA’s criticisms of the police investigation into the Watson case were also removed.

Teina PoraOn the page about Teina Pora, an editor calling himself Clarke43 has removed this: “Assistant Police Commissioner, Malcolm Burgess, said police would continue to cooperate fully with any lawful requests made for information in relation to the case. However, Pora’s lawyer Jonathan Krebs said the police had been unco-operative and for months had been refusing to supply information he had been seeking. Expressing his frustration with the lack of co-operation from police, Krebs said: “(Pora’s) still only in his mid to late 30s, and it’s simply a gross miscarriage of justice.”

A number of editors tried to have Pora’s entire page deleted.

The hidden agenda

When these issues arose last year, the NZ Herald asked Who is Clarke43? and expressed concerns that Wikipedia was being manipulated by certain individuals with a hidden agenda. The Herald asked:

How can Wikipedia users be assured that the fingerprints of interested parties are not all over the online encyclopaedia?”

This is a fair question, all the more pertinent now that substantial cuts have also been made to the page about Corruption in New Zealand.   Information criticising the police for their growing use of illegal search warrants was deleted – including details about the Te Urewera raids, the raid on Kim Dotcom and the illegal tactics used by police in the Red Devils case in Nelson. This quote from an editorial in the NZ Herald was also removed:

Police came under intense scrutiny after a series of high-profile raids in which the courts rejected evidence obtained illegally by police and the Herald criticised their lack of understanding of the law. It said the number of cases involved made it plain that these are not isolated examples of specific operations being botched: there is a systemic problem which must be addressed if the public is to have confidence in the New Zealand Police. Overzealous officers must be reined in to stop their impropriety and apparent disregard for the Bill of Rights.”

It seems that virtually any information which is critical of the New Zealand police or suggests the possibility of a miscarriage of justice is being deleted. This is all in the domain of Justice Minister, Judith Collins, who has already admitted to sanitising the Wikipedia page about David Bain

Is there a hidden agenda underlying the editing of these pages on wikipedia?  I leave the reader to decide – but that will be difficult if the details have been deleted.