Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Bad men

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  • Riddley Walker,

    Well one thing's for sure, you could never rely on the msm to enlighten us on the key factors in this horrendous case. I see the Weakened Herald has today gone large on the story in a way i haven't seen since the NBR did its bizarre smear campaign against Hubbard when he stood against everyone's favourite Darlek moron John Banks.

    For one, while I think there is clear need to reform the justice system in the way it handles sexual assualts, there is not one discussion of why hundreds of years of legal evolution has decided disclosure of past convictions is typically unlikely to be conducive to a just conviction. There are lots of important and interesting arguments around the topic but instead we just get pious and hysterical ranting.

    For another, let us indeed see some serious reformation of the police force that has allowed this to happen. How about some informed press coverage of that, hmm?

    And indeed, there are multiple very pertinent questions raised in this forum which I fear will never be covered.

    RB: got for it with the ads - i hate them but i understand. i mean christ, when you look at the shite peddled in corporate msm i guess keeping PA around is well worth the minor inconvenience. and you'd be one of the few editors i might trust to actually not put advertisers' interests before that of the audience.

    AKL • Since Feb 2007 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Note this, suppression of which was lifted yesterday:

    [T]he man who originally investigated the allegations is charged with attempting to obstruct or defeat the course of justice.

    Former detective inspector John Dewar, who denies the charges, led the Rotorua CIB and handled Ms Nicholas' accusation that she was pack raped by Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum between September 1985 and December 1986. (source: NZHerald)

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Philip Wilkie,

    Craig,

    Tom, would you like to look in the eyes of someone who's just made a complaint that they'd been the victim of a sex crime and say, "well, you know there's a very low conviction rate for this kind of offence

    A rather emotional card to play in the debate? Police prosecutors make judgment calls about whether to proceed to Court every day, and for certain many bad guys "get away with it" because there simply was not a strong enough case against them.

    You really do not want to remove this discretion from the Police, otherwise they are forced to "kick for touch" and sent the case to trial everytime someone walks in their door with a complaint. It takes little imagination to see how quickly such an setup could be readily abused by false or vexatious allegations.

    In this case someone's desire to "get Rickard" (rightly or otherwise) may well have blinded them to the low odds of a guilty verdict. Or if they were perfectly aware of this, but proceeded anyway, then some legitimate questions might well be asked of their real motives.

    Again I suggest that the Statute of Limitations went some distance to protect everyone (including the system itself) from prosecutions that are unlikely to succeed and result in more anguish than healing.

    Since Mar 2007 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Philip Wilkie:

    Well,sorry, I'm not convinced by Tom's argument that perhaps not bringing these charges at all would somehow be 'better' for the victim. Here's a shocking revelation: I think there are a plenty of victims of violent crime - including rape - who never report it precisely because they don't want to have to spend months - or even years - reliving it over and over, let alone having their character and mental health dragged through a very public mill as part of a defence startegy. And I'm not an idiot, I spent enough time as a hack to know prosecutors have to make margin calls about the likelihood of a successful outcome every day of the week. Rape cases are always difficult to prosecute, full stop; with so called 'historical' cases, the difficulties increase exponentially. But let's not pretend those margin calls go the other way too - just because fraud or tax evasion cases are often extremely complex, and the evidence is highly technical and wide open to interpretation by an inexpert jury doesn't mean they're never pursued, or shouldn't be. The same in cases of alleged medical malpractice.

    peter Cox wrote:
    Maybe someone just doesn't want Clint Rickards to be police commissioner in the future, can't say I'd disagree at this point.

    Check out S. 4 of the Police Act, where the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner are Prime Ministerial appointments. If 'someone' (nudge nudge, wink wink) didn't want Clint Rickards to become Police Commissioner, the remedy is to convince the Prime Minister to appoint someone - anyone - else if those positions fall vacant. Much more efficient that spending millions of dollars, generating years of negative media coverage of an enormously politically sensitive arm of the civil service, and (I guess) somehow convincing dozens of officers to fit up a very senior officer on false allegation brought by multiple women. Gee, I'm the right-winger around here. Aren't I the one who's supposed to regard Helen Clark and Rob Robertson as creatures of unbounded malevolence who will stop at nothing to do down their enemies?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Philip Wilkie,

    Craig,

    Rape cases are always difficult to prosecute, full stop; with so called 'historical' cases, the difficulties increase exponentially.

    Which is my sole point really. I believe it was a mistake to remove the Statute of Limitations and to lower the burden of proof to convict on uncorroborated testimony alone. It opens the door to very unsatisfactory cases such as this one.

    I would think that IF the Police had done their jobs properly 20 years ago and these alledged acts had reached a Court in a timely manner, there would likely been more public confidence in the outcome.

    reliving it over and over, let alone having their character and mental health dragged through a very public mill as part of a defence startegy

    Again if you allow a case to reach the Court solely on the word of the complainant, the defence has NO choice but to attack it's credibility. What else can they do if they are going to do their job at all?

    There are many good reasons why juries will always be reluctant to convict in these circumstances. Unlike the fraud case example you gave above, an "inexpert jury" is likely to comprehend this type of sexual offence case quite adequately and are perfectly aware that the chances are that the guy DID do it, but cannot bring themselves to leap the "beyond reasonable doubt" hurdle. Nor do I think that a jury with more than a few women members is likely to be so perversely misogynistic as to acquit an obviously guilty man simply because they want to inflict humiliation on a female rape victim, or "protect the patriarchy".

    Given this inevitable reality I do think that on balance historic cases such as this should only proceed if there is compelling corroborative evidence.

    Since Mar 2007 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    peter Cox wrote:
    Maybe someone just doesn't want Clint Rickards to be police commissioner in the future, can't say I'd disagree at this point.

    that was Reece.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Peter:

    My apologies for the misattribution.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    no worries ;-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I would think that IF the Police had done their jobs properly 20 years ago and these alledged acts had reached a Court in a timely manner, there would likely been more public confidence in the outcome.

    Philip, you're peaching to the Amen corner on that one. :) I guess there's a streak of innate conservatism in me that believes "out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing is ever made." No human institution is always going to produce perfect outcomes in an imperfect world that has human being in it. I'm no reactionary, but a conservative - change is necessary and impossible, but I'm reluctant to throw out the imperfect but tested by time and experience for a whole new set of problems, without very careful consideration. At least there's a little light among all the heat - which is pretty cold comfort but better than nothing.

    As for your second set of points - well, I'm going to go away and resond to them very carefully.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • reece palmer,

    and to complete the quote, the last line says, "pretty crude way to go about it." Which I think was the point you were making anyway, no?

    the terraces • Since Nov 2006 • 298 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    I understand that Michael Laws is going to be "dancing with the stars".

    After reading his column today, I can only conclude that he has been practising with Rodney Hide and was repeatedly dropped on his head.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1332 posts Report Reply

  • Duncan McKenzie,

    I too have done stints of jury service and my experience was pretty similar to that of Heather Gay's. The first time - more than 10 years ago, was in the DC. The next two were in the High Court

    Some observations;
    The rape trial was in the DC. The first drug trial, where the guy was caught with a tab of acid and stupidly told the cops he had given another away some months before, was possession and supply of a Class whatever drug, so was tried in the HC. That seemed a bit odd.

    In the rape trial I got the feeling that the Police are under instruction to give the complainant her day in Court and do not do a lot to ensure a conviction is secured. So a lot is put on the complainant (and on the jury).

    In the most recent drug trial, where the defendant was caught red handed with a kg of meth at the airport, (he claimed he was an unwitting mule) we the jury were warned that in real life, not everything gets neatly tied up with forensic evidence. We were also told that we had to consider the evidence before us, and not do our own research. That didn't stop one jury member doing an internet search for the hotel the defendant stayed at in Malaysia.

    We were all conscientious and took our duties seriously. And most people can bring something to a jury - one really quiet guy on the last day of the second HC trial let slip that he worked for WINZ where they are trained to look for the body language that goes with lying.

    But time for my grouch. Judges get $200 k a year, lawyers get $200 an hour, the police will be on $40 an hour, and we the jury got something like $20 a day. Not so good when you are self-employed like me.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 53 posts Report Reply

  • Span .,

    I've been avoiding reading too much of the media coverage, but I see the Weekend Herald is kind of backing the complainants, while the SST appear from the front page to be Rickard supporters, but the editorial says otherwise. I got sucked into the vortex of reading the gruesome descriptions in the Herald's saturday coverage and I won't be making that mistake again. I'm angry and upset enough already.

    Which is probably hypocritical or something, to not bother following in detail, but actually it's about protecting yourself and meaning you can function and I make no apologies for that.

    Craig R, yes it is very eww to be thinking about how Rickards' representation might argue for his job back. It will be interesting to see how public the details of that debate become. It may be of interest to the public, but is it in the public interest to publicise it?

    I can't help thinking about Graham Capill in all of this. He denied and denied and denied (or at least claimed some kind of perverted consent), including beyond the point at which he pled guilty.

    As for juries, I was on one once, about three years ago, and it was depressing. There were only two men on it and I had the impression that a large majority of those who turn up for jury duty are women. That wasn't the depressing bit. That would be the stupid people who kept repeatedly claiming the defendant hadn't proved he was innocent.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 112 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    One thing no seems to be considering here is the wisdom of lodging these charges in the first place, given not just the difficulty of securing a conviction but also the impact on the victim of a not guilty verdict.

    I would suspect, if anything, that likelihood of following a case through to prosecution would be just as likely, and most likely more likely, if the defendants are police officers, particularly high ranking police officers, than ordinary members of the public. Simply for political reasons, there would be no way that the police would want to be seen to protecting their own these days, they have an unfortunate culture of it in the past.

    Also, I think there's a general rule, that if the police prosecute someone, you can assume two things. Firstly, that they are confident that the person 'did it'. They won't always be right on that point, but much more likely to be right than wrong. They've done the work, collected the evidence, spoken to witnesses, complainants, defendants etc. They'd have been confident that these people committed these crimes.

    Secondly, they'll consider that they have a reasonable chance of getting a conviction. They also won't always get this right as well, particularly with a difficult historical case like this, but they won't send a case to court when they know in all likelihood they're going to lose.

    I spoke to a police officer who was involved with the case of the two kids who went missing in the Marlborough Sounds New Years Eve a few years ago. The officer said that they absolutely new the guy had done it. The evidence was clear, everything pointed towards the fact that the defendant had killed them and then worked hard to cover up the facts. It was simply a matter of convincing a jury of that, which they did.

    So I'd lay fairly good odds that the prosecution was correct, but they just didn't have either of the most recent cases tight enough, and things didn't fall for them the way they wanted in court. That's unfortunate if they are guilty but got off, but it's also what happens in our justice system.

    The claims made by Rickard's brother that the prosecution was brought to stop him eventually being Commissioner of Police, I regard as laughable. Rickard's hopes of getting that job disappeared once it became apparent during the investigation that he'd been manipulating and doing dodgy stuff with members of the public. Any appointment for senior police jobs is thoroughly vetted, and you can bet 'information that came to light during internal investigations of historical behaviour' would set of sirens well before the commissioner level. He wouldn't have gotten his current job if this had come to light before his application.

    Even before the prosecution started, his career was in tatters, and I can't imagine he'd work in the police again. He'll Perf out if he's lucky and take his superannuation.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    Span said:

    That wasn't the depressing bit. That would be the stupid people who kept repeatedly claiming the defendant hadn't proved he was innocent.

    It has to be said: good god.

    As Zsa Zsa Gabor once complained about a jury: 'It was not my class of people. There was not a producer, a press agent, a director, an actor.'"

    I would settle for a jury without imbeciles.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • ross f,

    Russell, you wrote: But as in the Louise Nicholas case, what was not contested by the defence was damning enough.

    You conveniently forgot to mention the damning evidence presented by the defence about the accusers. In the Nicholas case, the accuser had made numerous allegations of rape against many men. None of her allegations have been substantiated. Of course, one of her allegations was that she had been raped by a group of Maori men riding horses and wearing ski masks. She subsequently admitted that this claim was false.

    The latest "victim" initally claimed that she had had a six month relationship with Clint Rickards, but under cross-examination she admitted that this claim was false. It is not known what, if any, other falsehoods she admitted to under oath.

    I suspect that the jury's decision to acquit the accused was relatively easy. There was no external corroborating evidence.

    What I would like to know is what inducements, if any, were provided to the accusers and witnesses acting on their behalf. For example, Sharon Shipton's cousin came from Australia to contradict the memories of SS...a long way to come just to confirm what we all know....that if our memories of recent events may not be reliable, then our memories of events more than 20 years old are downright dangerous. So what prompoted SS' s cousin to come here? I would've told the cops to take a hike.

    And what prompted the latest "victim" to come forward? Maybe she was offered money and/or goodies by the police. I'm sure that an investigative journalist will let us all know in due course.

    Michael Laws is right - the police knew they were pushing it up hill. But they had to be seen to be doing the right thing in some quarters, so they decided to prosecute. What's $5 million between friends?

    wairarapa • Since Mar 2007 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • ross f,

    Span wrote: I had the impression that a large majority of those who turn up for jury duty are women.

    I think the majority of jurors in the Louise Nicholas case were women. Isn't it significant that Nicholas was judged by her peers who found her testimony/credibility to be wanting?

    wairarapa • Since Mar 2007 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna,

    What's $5 million between friends?

    Wow, I hope I'm misinterpreting what you said, ross f, because I'm curious as to what exactly the numerical value you'd put on justice - in the judicial sense. And did Louise Nicholas's peers find her credibility wanting, or rather the actual evidence just not enough?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 746 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    And what's up with the scare quotes? You would think the complainant was on trial here.

    If ross' standard is that only a criminal conviction is meaningful, then let him wait for perjury and false complaint convictions before attacking Nicholas.

    "I would've told the cops to take a hike."

    If I were asked to provide evidence that shattered an accused rapist's alibi I'd travel as far as necessary. Your sense of responsibility is pretty atrophied.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • ross f,

    Joanne wrote: because I'm curious as to what exactly the numerical value you'd put on justice - in the judicial sense.

    Well, I must admit that I'm using the Peter Ellis case as a guide. Remember the debate swirling in 1999 after the Court of Appeal said that a commission of inquiry was the best forum to debate the issues relating to that case? A ministerial inquiry followed at a cost of less than $150,000 and the then Minister of Justice, the honourable Phil Goff, said the government had gone "the extra mile".

    So if $150,000 is going the extra mile, then what is $5 million, the projected cost of the commission of inqury into policy conduct? However, at least one media commentator has recommended having another inquiry into these alleged rapes. I agree that cost should not be a factor when it comes to justice, but the budget for prosecuting crimes is not limitless, which might explain why the police choose not to prosecute some alleged crimes. it is simply not in the public interest to do so.

    Did Louise Nicholas's peers find her credibility wanting, or rather the actual evidence just not enough, you ask? What's the difference? Nicholas's evidence was at the heart of the case. The jury clearly didn't accept her evidence, which was unsurprising given her credibility problems.

    wairarapa • Since Mar 2007 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • ross f,

    Stephen Judd wrote: And what's up with the scare quotes? You would think the complainant was on trial here.

    The complainant made allegations that she couldn't substantiate.

    > If ross' standard is that only a criminal conviction is meaningful, then let him wait for perjury and false complaint convictions before attacking Nicholas.

    Really, do you think Nicholas is going to be charged with perjury? Anyway, such a question misses the point. People can genuinely believe that they have been sexually abused without it being so.

    No, I don't believe only a criminal conviction is meaningful. But I suspect that in the last two cases of alleged rape, the jury may have declared innocence if they were able to. Isn't that a weakness in our system?

    > If I were asked to provide evidence that shattered an accused rapist's alibi I'd travel as far as necessary.

    But the cousin from Australia didn't do that. She simply had a different recollection of events. And we don't know what inducements, if any, helped her to remember those events. It's amazing what some cash will do to jog one's memory.

    wairarapa • Since Mar 2007 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I suspect that the jury's decision to acquit the accused was relatively easy. There was no external corroborating evidence.

    Yes. And both complainants were flawed, and the prosectution couldn't show guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That's how it works.

    On the other hand, there was better evidence in Mt Maunganui case, including a guilty plea (to abduction) by one of the offenders. Should the police have decided not to prosecute when they already had rape and abduction convictions of two of the same three men which shared many characteristics with the two further complaints? Really?

    Maybe she was offered money and/or goodies by the police.

    You've got a bit of a nerve sermonising on evidence when you say something like that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    But the cousin from Australia didn't do that. She simply had a different recollection of events.

    Those events including the phone call from Sharon Shipton coaching her on what to say (ie: to lie) in the past couple of weeks. I'd wager her memory of that was still quite fresh. You're being very disingenuous indeed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    "It's amazing what some cash will do to jog one's memory."

    Are you saying that the police bribed a witness? That's what I think you're saying.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • ross f,

    > On the other hand, there was better evidence in Mt Maunganui case, including a guilty plea (to abduction) by one of the offenders.

    Now, who's got some nerve? The guy you're referring to was originally found guilty of sexual violation, but that conviction was overturned. How did you miss not mentioning that, Russell?

    wairarapa • Since Mar 2007 • 45 posts Report Reply

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