Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Justice'

Why the jury in the Scott Guy murder trial should have been privy to all the facts about Ewen Macdonald



The criminal justice system in this country, as in many other countries, is founded on the principle that the combined experience, wisdom, reasoning power and common sense of 12 of an accused person’s peers may be relied on to reach a sound verdict on that person’s guilt or innocence. Though, for a variety of reasons, juries do occasionally get things wrong, history seems to suggest that no better method has yet been found of determining the truth in criminal trials.

Given the faith that we put in them to reach that sound verdict, it seems axiomatic that juries must have access to all the relevant facts in a trial. A decision to suppress or  conceal certain facts from the jury is therefore extremely serious and must surely meet the test that those facts can have no bearing on or relevance to the accused’s guilt or innocence.

In the Scott Guy murder trial, Justice Simon France allowed the jury to hear evidence of certain actions by the accused to which he had already pleaded guilty. The revelation of these actions placed Ewen Macdonald  in an extremely poor light and might well have suggested that he harboured feelings about his brother-in-law Scott Guy and the Guy family that might be considered a motive for murder. Macdonald had burnt down an old house on the Guys’ property and had vandalised and sprayed highly offensive graffiti on Scott  and Kylee’s new home.  Read the rest of this entry »


Ewen Macdonald, the UMR Research poll on his guilt and a ‘triple jeopardy’ scenario.







Five days ago UMR Research published the results of a poll of 750 New Zealanders 18 years and older. Their  news release was headed ‘WHAT NEW ZEALANDERS THINK OF THE SCOTT GUY MURDER TRIAL’  and began:

 ‘Just 20% of New Zealanders believe Ewen Macdonald did not murder Scott Guy, according to a UMR Research poll released today.

‘UMR’s fortnightly Omnibus Survey shows 48% of people believe Ewen Macdonald is guilty, 20% say he is not guilty, and 28% said they were unsure. 4% of respondents refused to answer the question.’

UMR came in for some fairly sustained flak from letter-writers to the papers and bloggers for conducting the poll at all. At first I tended to share their disapproval. Macdonald had only recently been tried by a jury of his peers for the murder of Scott Guy and that jury had unanimously declared him not guilty. The UMR poll effectively constituted a re-trial of Macdonald for the same crime with the same evidence, but with a much larger, though considerably less well-informed, jury. That jury, it seemed, had found him guilty. Double jeopardy!

I was about to get stuck into UMR for this gratuitous breach of natural justice, when I suddenly remembered that, in a discussion of the trial and its outcome on TV3’s The Nation some days earlier, I had confidently declared that although Macdonald had been found not guilty by a jury of his peers, he had been found guilty ‘in the court of public opinion’.  The UMR poll had done nothing more than test that hypothesis by seeking the opinion of 750 adult New Zealanders and found it to be correct.   Read the rest of this entry »


I offer some friendly but unsolicited advice to Kim Dotcom

Dear Kim Dotcom

I’m a fan. Like most fans, my admiration for you isn’t entirely rational. I don’t actually know whether you’re guilty of the Internet crimes the American Government accuses you of. You could be as guilty as sin for all I know.  And your slate isn’t entirely clean. You’ve been convicted of computer fraud and embezzlement. But you’ve paid the price for those crimes and you’ve started a new life here in New Zealand.

When people ask me about the qualities that make up the average Kiwi, I tend to put ‘fair-minded’ at the top of the list. We abhor injustice. So we didn’t like it when, having filed indictments against you and six others on criminal copyright infringement charges,  the FBI started pushing us around and demanding your extradition to the States to face the (pirated?) music. As a small  nation, we’re particularly sensitive to bullying.

And we liked it even less when our very own Keystone Cops, energised by the successful outcome of their Rambo exercises in the Ureweras, decided on an armed-to-the-teeth assault on you and your family’s home in Coatsville.

We weren’t too impressed either by your arrest, denial of bail, imprisonment for a month or the seizure by the Crown of almost everything you own. We’re addicted to that pesky legal principle that people are innocent till proven guilty. We hadn’t seen any real evidence of your guilt or indeed been acquainted with the specifics of the charges against you.  And we still haven’t.   Read the rest of this entry »


A Kafkaesque story that should horrify you. And it’s set in New Zealand!


On Wednesday an email arrives in your inbox from the court. It tells you that you have been charged with a range of offences. The charges arise from complaints to the court made by a number of named individuals and one unnamed person who wishes  to remain anonymous.  The offences, some of which may go back several years, are outlined.

To assist the court you are asked to respond in writing to  a list of questions relevant to these offences. You are told that your case is to be heard in court next week and your evidence will be taken on Tuesday or Wednesday.  It is indicated to you that the trial will proceed whether you choose to appear in court or not. You are given the option of delivering a written statement of defence, though this is discouraged.

You panic. The charges against you are serious and could destroy your reputation. You are also extremely busy and the deadline for the trial allows you very little time to research the cases or prepare a defence. You seek the advice of a lawyer.

The lawyer can offer you very little comfort. He tells you that in this particular court the accused may not be represented by legal counsel but must mount their  own defence. What’s more, there is no judge, none of the prosecuting team are lawyers,  the normal rules of evidence do not apply, and objections are pointless.   Read the rest of this entry »


One law for top sportsmen, another for an ordinary mum. The injustice of it makes my blood boil!

There are only two stories on the front page of this morning’s Herald. One, headed Secrecy over ex-All Black’s child assault, occupies the left hand side of the page. The other, headed Attacked girl’s mum faces court, occupies the right hand side.

To be strictly accurate, the right hand story consists  of nine  column inches of text and a 10 x 6 inch photograph of Melissa Anderson, the mother of the attacked girl, appearing in the Waitakere District Court to face a charge of assault. Ms Anderson had slapped one of two girls who had attacked her 13-year-old daughter Summer, leaving her with a black eye, a welt on the side of her face and cuts to her eyelid.

The left hand side story begins:

Name suppression for a former All Black who yesterday pleaded guilty to child assault flies in the face of Parliament’s aims, says a legal expert.

The former rugby star is the latest in a long line of top sportsmen who have appeared in criminal courts and been allowed to keep their identities secret.

The justification for the name suppression is given later in the story:

He was reportedly given name suppression because of his standing in sporting circles and in the community as well as to protect the identity of the complainant.

Another former high-profile All Black appeared in a Wellington court last week and he, too, was given name suppression.

In that case, the 45-year-old was charged with assaulting his partner… resisting police and possession of cannabis.

The Herald goes on to list eight cases since 2002 in which prominent sportsmen were granted name suppression. The cases involved a range of offences from spousal and child assault to rape, abduction and sexual violation.  Read the rest of this entry »


The right decision on Ashish Macwan; The wrong decision on Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkam.

Ashish Macwan, whose son Aarush drowned when the family’s van rolled into a Central Otago lake, has been discharged without conviction. He was not fined and was allowed to keep his licence.

Though the father had pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving causing death. Judge Charles Blackie found that he had suffered enough.

This morning’s Herald summarised how the tragedy occurred:

“The accident happened at Easter when Macwan was holidaying with his wife Kinnery, son Aarush, and family friends.

“The group stopped at Lake Dunstan near Cromwell for a break. When Macwan, who was driving, got out of the Toyota Hiace to stretch his legs, the vehicle rolled backwards into the lake.

“Macwan reportedly forgot to put on the handbrake and left the van in neutral.

“The adults and an older child escaped, but Aarush, who was strapped into his seat, was unable to be saved.

“A group of people, including Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper, tried to swim down to the van but it was too deep.

“Police charged Macwan the same day.

“Lepper was one of many who questioned the decision to charge Macwan, saying the death of his son was punishment enough.”    Read the rest of this entry »


A Hypothesis: Let’s assume for the moment that Darren Hughes is telling the truth.

Cartoon by Webb

Let’s assume just for the moment that Darren Hughes is telling the truth when he says he did nothing wrong when he took an eighteen-year-old back to his lodgings in the early hours of March 2.

Let’s set the bar even higher and assume that Hughes is not just relying on the letter of the law when he says he did nothing wrong, but  that  nothing of a sexual nature, nothing ‘improper’ in any way  took place. They had a cup of coffee and continued talking politics until the 18-year-old left.
And finally, let’s not worry about the probability or lack of probability of these assumptions or where this leaves the 18-year-old and his complaint to the police.
We’re simply considering a hypothesis: Darren Hughes is completely innocent.
This hypothesis was debated  on last night’s Close Upby three very experienced and very knowledgeable commentators: former Labour Party president, Mike Williams, former Labour MP, John Tamihere and Dr Bryce Edwards, blogger and lecturer in Politics at Otago University.

Asked whether Hughes political  aspirations were dog-tucker even if no prosecution were taken against him – effectively a declaration that he had broken no law – all three agreed that that was indeed the case. One expressed the reservation that if the police dealt with the matter quickly, there was a chance that Hughes might survive – a reasonably unlikely scenario, given the cops’ historic tardiness in dealing with this sort of matter.  Read the rest of this entry »


A Definition of Stupidity: Repeatedly trying the same ineffective solution to a problem. And why that makes a majority of Kiwis stupid.


Someone recently defined stupidity as repeatedly trying the same ineffective solution to a problem. By that definition, we New Zealanders are a very stupid people indeed.

The problem in this case is crime. The ineffective solution which we’ve been trying since Pakeha arrived here and are still trying today is punishment, particularly the imprisonment of offenders for longer and longer periods. I’ve compared this to throwing water on a fat fire which of course has the effect of spreading the flames and, quite possibly, burning down the house. The solution to this problem is not to throw more water on the fire, but to find a more efficient way of depriving the fire of oxygen.

Anyone who reads the papers must now know that New Zealand has the second highest daily prison muster rate in the developed world, second only to the United States in the number of  people we incarcerate per head of population.

If this approach to crime were working, the numbers of people being imprisoned ought to be dropping, as the deterrent of imprisonment and longer sentences discourages people from committing crimes. Clearly it isn’t working.   Read the rest of this entry »


The Winehouse Submission – Thoughts on Celebrity Justice

Pic: John Selkirk

Pic: John Selkirk

Pic: John McCombe

Pic: John McCombe

Pic: John Selkirk
Pic: John Selkirk







The issue of ‘celebrity justice’ is in the news again – ‘famous’ Kiwis getting name suppression in criminal trials because publicity for their offending might  cause them ‘unreasonable hardship’. (I put ‘famous’ in quotes because when I was told the names of the defendants in two recent cases, I was none the wiser as to who they were.)

As Phil Taylor demonstrates in an excellent piece in this morning’s Herald, this is a complex question. On the face of it, the principle that we are all equal before the law should apply. The TV star and  the All Black should receive the same treatment from the justice system as everyone else.

I accept this principle. But should ‘the same treatment’ not include the same punishment for the same crime? I would have thought that it should. Read the rest of this entry »