Trial by Trickery

The Queen v Scott Watson

New Zealand's most blatantly dishonest prosecution


R v Watson is the legal description of perhaps New Zealand’s most infamous murder case: a prosecution involving a 5 month police inquiry in1998, a three month trial in 1999, and an Appeal against Conviction in 2000, all involving the blatant deceiving of the public by high-ranking police and legal officials.

The case is infamous because it wasn’t a genuine murder investigation, trial and appeal at all. It held the country’s attention for two and a half years, but what the public didn’t know was that it was a two and a half year fraud on the part of the Crown figures who controlled it. By the use of lies, misinformation, and false argument, the jury’s verdict, and public opinion, was effectively moulded within and without the courtroom, from the beginning of the enquiry by the Police, through false information knowingly advanced by the prosecution in court, and through the support of the trial judge who instructed the jury to vote 'Guilty'. It was later confirmed and sealed by three judges of the Court of Appeal with an equally false appeal judgment. As a result a man was convicted of two murders and is in prison for the rest of his life for one reason only: none of those entrusted by the state with the task of uncovering the truth and administering justice in the case bothered with either truth or justice.

These are not just wild accusations. They were first advanced indirectly in the 2003 Television One documentary Murder On The Blade? and may now be publicly stated with impunity, since in three years none of those so accused in the film has challenged them. The accused include the most prominent of prosecuting QCs, the longest serving High Court Judge (now deceased), a policeman now all but of the highest rank, a judicial civil servant all but of the highest rank, and three appeal judges: the then President of the Court of Appeal, his successor as President, and a third judge of the Supreme Court.

The book Trial by Trickery goes beyond the film to describe the Judicial system’s fakery directly and in meticulous detail. The fakery involves all of the august figures alluded to above. Just as none challenged the assertions of the film, no-one has challenged the book’s claims either. So the book’s claims are not only undeniable, they have not been denied!

The basic facts:
On New Year's Eve 1997, young holiday-makers Ben Smart and Olivia Hope disappeared from a party at a seaside resort, and were last seen boarding a mystery yacht with a mystery man. Five months later 26-year old Scott Watson was arrested and convicted of their murders. He is now serving a life sentence.

Is Watson guilty? Not according to the evidence. The evidence says ‘innocent’, emphatically. It says – emphatically – that Scott Watson is in prison because the key evidence was not identified and presented to the court by the only people who all along knew what it was – the Crown Prosecutors.

Instead the Prosecutors misrepresented and misquoted the facts, the evidence and the arguments in court, over and over and over again.

Why? Were they just playing a game - the game of law? Did they view the destruction of a man’s reputation, life and liberty as their prize for winning a competition? Until the judicial system addresses the questions raised in the book, the answers to these questions must be ‘yes’.


The film and the book:
The award-winning feature-length film Murder On The Blade? addresses the issue of Scott Watson’s guilt or innocence. When it played on Television One in November 2003 it reduced, from 59% to 44%, the number of New Zealanders who think Watson guilty.
Now comes Trial by Trickery, the book, the sequel to the film. It looks beyond Watson’s guilt or innocence to expose the appalling story of how a jury's verdict was acquired by the Crown. It’s a story of judicial incompetence, tunnel vision, misinformation and preconception. It will convince every reader that the guilty verdict should be applied not to the accused man but to the ‘System’ itself.

Trial by Trickery
uncovers, step by step, the mechanisms that led first to the annihilation of a transparently innocent man’s reputation, and then inexorably to his wrongful prosecution and conviction. It identifies and tracks constant misinformation first fed to the public during the police inquiry, then to the jury during the trial and then to the public again in the judgment of the Court of Appeal. It exposes the manipulations of advocacy in the adversarial system of law and turns the tables on all of Scott Watson's accusers, from the police to the Court of Appeal, to make them the accused. It asks if the outcome of the actions of the police, the prosecutors and even the judges, were intended or the result of utter incompetence. Finally it asks:

'Is this justice, New Zealand style?'

Anyone who was disturbed by the film will be dumbfounded by the book and its revelations about the way justice is applied, apparently routinely, in New Zealand.

Keith Hunter
Author and publisher of Trial By Trickery and producer and director of Murder On The Blade?