No independent body needed to review convictions - Collins
Justice minister Judith Collins says she has “no doubt” the retrial of convicted murderer Mark Lundy will go ahead.
She told Corin Dann on TV ONE’s Q+A this morning that Mr Lundy – who is currently out on bail – could have sought to have the matter heard in the Supreme Court, or if the Privy Council had declined to consider the case, he could have gone for a Royal Prerogative of Mercy, which is when the executive consider the case and refer it to the Governor General.
Independent appeals commission?
Ms Collins says the fact these avenues exist, and that so few people convicted seek to have their convictions quashed, means there is not a need for an independent appeals commission, similar to those that exist in the UK and Scotland. A number of high profile legal figures have long called for such a commission to be established.
Mr Dann said taking the Lundy case and the Bain case and others where it’s clear that in these cases, they’ve taken a very long time, they’ve been very costly, and they’ve had someone championing their cause. "Not everyone who’s innocent in prison and who shouldn’t be there is going to get that champion, and that seems to be a failing in the system, isn’t it?," he asked.
The Justice Minister replied, "Half of all people convicted of murder in this country will appeal. And I don’t believe for a moment that half of all the people convicted of murder are not guilty, but half of them will appeal. And when you have, in fact, a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, there is a tremendous advantage in appealing. And of those, only a tiny minority - about one a year - are ever overturned on appeal, and mostly they then end up being charged with manslaughter. So the fact is that these cases take a long time primarily because no one’s actually taken it further to the appeal process."
Police dragging heels?
Ms Collins was also asked, "So you’re confident the police aren’t dragging their heels here, aren’t making life too difficult for these types of appeals? Because there’s plenty of commentary around at
the moment that seems to suggest or argue that there’s some sort of a stubbornness or unwillingness on behalf of police to accept that they ever get anything wrong?"
She replied, "Well, I don’t think that that should be true, because we have now the Independent Police Conduct Authority which was set up in about 2007. And that is a far more robust process and body than its predecessor, the Police Complaints Authority. So the fact is that sometimes police will get things wrong. The vast majority of the time, they don’t. We have 85,000 criminal convictions a year in this country. Of those, only 1 per cent are appealed, and of that 1% that are appealed, only 10% are successfully appealed. So that’s about 99.9 per cent of all criminal convictions every year are upheld."
Watch the full interview here.