July 28, 1996
Sometimes there's reasonable doubt about common sense
by George Balani
IS our justice system letting us down? Is our police force letting us down?
Certainly most of the work the police do is beyond reproach, but in some
cases it would seem common sense or logic disappear.
Remember what turned out to be a false accusation of rape against Waikato University student Nick Wills. Police
followed a single-minded path looking for a conviction, overlooking obvious
evidence of an alibi, and were it not for Nick's parents a conviction would
almost certainly have resulted.
In 1992, 12-year-old Agnes Alli'iva'a was found bruised and semi-naked in a
ditch. How could police possibly have concluded there was no evidence of foul
Everybody except the police believed the Janine Laws case pointed to foul
play and now, years later, the murderer has finally been convicted.
Years ago, Arthur Allan Thomas was convicted of the Crewe
murders and later pardoned. Many things didn't add up in this case and to
this day, nobody has been charged with perjury or perverting the course of
justice. Yet clearly evidence was planted, somebody did tell lies and not all
the evidence was produced in front of the juries.
David Tamihere's trial raises a whole raft of serious and important questions
which need to be answered.
The police don't always get it right and some of their decisions to proceed
or not with cases seem to lack logic. Add to that a faulty system we seem to
have blind faith in and we have some serious issues to address.
We tend to have faith in the system because we were raised believing in the
honesty and integrity of the police, and a system of justice in which every
citizen is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Because of our faith, we overlook the fact the police may get it wrong,
intentionally or otherwise; that a judge's decision can significantly alter
the evidence placed before a jury; that a lawyer's inexperience could impact
on that too; and that juries can only judge what they're allowed to see.
Like many New Zealanders, I now have some serious reservations about the
fairness of the system. It can so easily be stacked against the accused and
that surely goes against the grain for all of us.
We don't want to see criminals go free - but nor do we want to see anybody