Trial by Trickery
10 December: Dr Robert Moles, former Associate Professsor at Adelaide University Law School, has published a review of Trial By Trickery on his website. Dr Moles now works full time on the "Networked Knowledge" project, which investigates and reports on serious miscarriages of justice in South Australia. His review is published below. For his website click here.
Dr Robert Moles, click here
Chris Gullabin, University of Canterbury, click here
Stephen Price, New Zealand Law Society's Law Talk, click here.
Melita Smith, Kiwiboomers website, click here.
Roy Burke, Wa1kato Times, click here
Professor Bill Hodge, Auckland University Faculty Of Law, click here
Dr Lynley Hood, author of A City Possessed, click here
Newspaper reportage at time of publication::
New Zealand Herald (Phil Taylor) click here
The Australian justice system's most notable critic, Dr Robert Moles, published the following review of Trial by Trickery on his website 'Networked Knowledge in December 2007.
Trial by Trickery - Scott Watson, the Sounds Murders and the Game of
Law by Keith Hunter
ISBN 10: 0-473-11721-5; ISBN 13: 978-0-473-11721-4 Hunter Productions 2006
The book is available at $NZ 29-99 and the DVD Murder on the Blade? at $NZ 23.99 www.hunterproductions.co.nz
Reviewed by: Dr Robert N Moles
This book argues that the case of Scott Watson, who was convicted of the murder of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope after they disappeared after boarding a boat in a New Zealand harbour in 1998 just does not stack up. I have to agree. This is a book which is a masterpiece of critical and scholarly analysis. The reasoning is methodical and rigorous. The argument is sustained and compelling.
It argues that the conviction is based upon little more than tunnel vision and the desire to establish a case against a suspect who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It reminds me of the case of Guy Paul Morin in Canada. The Judicial Inquiry there established that the investigators were unfair and willing to create a case based upon bare suspicion and little else, whilst ignoring many factors which might have shown that they had the wrong suspect. Hunter's account of the "investigation" prosecution and appeal of Scott Watson demonstrates that the system has comprehensively failed at every level.
In truth, there is not even a respectable case to be made out against Watson. Its not a question of saying that the jury must have believed certain witnesses instead of others. The court was simply misinformed and the jury were misled. As we have seen with the Keogh case in Australia, it is not difficult for the people involved with these cases to overcomplex things and then assert that those who raise concerns do not understand the complexities of the case or of the law. Obfuscation is the last resort of the exhausted mind. According to Hunter's account of the Watson case, obfuscation has been used on many occasions by many people who ought to have known better; from the investigation, through the prosecution and the trial and even in the appeal.
The trouble with cases like Watson's is that people who are involved in barracking for the status quo presumably hope that the agitators for a review will go away, and they can go on to ever greater and better things. However, it is in the nature of things that skilled and able people like Hunter will not just go away. The amount of time and effort which he has already invested in this project must be vast. Both the book and the DVD are finely produced and presented. Together they provide a compelling argument to show that the witnesses and the evidence were manipulated to provide a case to the casual observer which might result in a conviction. I have no doubt after reading the book and watching the video, that this will turn out to be one of the major international classics of miscarriages of justice.
If Ben and Olivia were killed then there is not the slightest evidence to suggest that Scott Watson was involved in it. Indeed, there is a great deal of evidence to show that whoever did it it was not Scott Watson. The descriptions of a possible perpetrator do not match. The descriptions of the vessel do not match. The timings are woefully inconsistent with possible guilt. The issues put forward in evidence are manifestly consistent with the innocence of Scott Watson.
Hunter provides compelling evidence to show that the judge had joined the prosecution in helping to patch up a case against Watson which was threadbare. As in most cases of this sort, the blame lies not with the jury, for they must rely upon the "evidence" which is given in court. However, if they are not told the truth, or if they are given incomplete information, then they will be bound to come to the wrong result, as they did here.
Both the book and the DVD are superbly produced and presented, and Keith Hunter is to be commended for unravelling the complexities and explaining them in a manner which is as clear as it is compelling. I join with Hunter in stating that cases such as this show that a properly established Criminal Review Commission is urgently required. New Zealand offficials must act swiftly to correct this serious injustice if its reputation in the international arena is not to be sullied for a long time to come.
The following review of Trial By Trickery, by Chris Gallavin of the University of Canterbury was published, without the knowledge of the book's author, in the June edition of The New Zealand Law Journal. It is followed by a commentary which was sent to the Journal for publication.
For further correspondence with the New Zealand Law Journal relating to the review and related commentary click here
Trial By Trickery: Scott Watson, the Sounds Murders and the Game of Law
Chris Gallavin, the University of Canterbury
reviews Keith Hunter's book on the Scott Watson case
Before I become part of a Keith Hunter conspiracy theory I must start
this review with a confession. I worked for the Department for Courts
at Blenheim when Ben Smart and Olivia Hope went missing on New Year's
Eve 1997. I shared a group of mutual friends with Ben and Olivia and I
had clerked the Blenheim Court when Watson appeared on charges relating
to the mistaken use of his dinghy in 1996. In that case involving his
dinghy my recollection of Watson's actions are that he was not quite as
reasonable as Hunter would suggest; however that does not make him a double
Despite my remote connection to the case I do not profess to have any superior knowledge as to the operation of the Watson investigation and later trial. The difficulty I have in reviewing this book is that I will inevitably be seen as either supporting Watson's guilt or innocence depending on whether I like this publication or not. Neither I nor Hunter has a crystal ball. I cannot therefore say that Watson is definitely guilty or definitely innocent. What I can do however, is assess the operation of his investigation and criminal trial. From this perspective this trial has some very troublesome aspects. A very strong case can be put in support of a miscarriage of justice.
In Trial by Trickery (Hunter Productions (2007)) Hunter not only discusses the frailty of evidence against Watson but also presents a conspiracy theory in which police, lawyers and the judiciary are all against Watson. In a common law, adversarial, system "truth" is ascertained through the presentation of competing arguments within the context of the Crown bearing the burden of proof. Rather than a "game" in which a jury is invited to choose the most convincing argument, say on a bare majority basis, the standard of "beyond reasonable doubt" seeks to ensure some balance or even imbalance in favour of an accused. Civil or administrative law systems adopt an inquisitorial system in which all actors are supposedly geared toward ascertaining the "truth". Under such systems the rules of evidence are often far more simplistic. Under our common law system very complicated and often competing exclusionary rules have developed to deal with complex situations of reliability and equality of arms. How is this relevant to Trial by Trickery? Well, Hunter attempts to lampoon our system by suggesting judicial bias and overt prosecutorial manipulation of evidence including the planting and buying of evidence. His opinions in this regard are often laughable and act to cloud those kernels of truth that may, under a very favourable reading, lend weight to such assertions.
The book is divided into eight chapters that cover the Watson saga from investigation to Court of Appeal. Hunter describes his book as being a sequel to the film Murder on the Blade? which he produced and presented for Television One. The book begins with "An Open Letter to New Zealand's Parliament". The tone and structure of this letter instantly turned me off this book. The letter includes a list of questions Hunter sets for the book. These include:
• "Did the police deliberately set out to have Scott Watson tried in the media prior to his arrest?"
• "What caused the Crown to mislead the Court by constantly misquoting or misinterpreting the evidence?"
• "Is counsel misquotation of evidence and fact a common tactic in our Courts?"
• "How can the jury system survive such maltreatment as it suffered in R v Watson?"
He adopts a self fulfilling narrative that often lapses into the unstructured
and illogical and which I found annoying. However I must be fair to Hunter;
I am a legal academic and he is a journalist. This book is comprehensively
researched and is, no doubt, available from Whitcoulls. It is not a New
Zealand Law Commission paper filled with legalese. It fulfills an important
role but let us be honest, it has a clear purpose: to prove Hunter's preconceived
thesis, that the Watson trial was a sham and our system is rotting from
within. Associate Professor Bill Hodge is simply wrong when he states
in the Foreword that Hunter leaves "the reader to come to his or
own conclusions". Hunter bullies the reader down his path of reasoning.
All but the most well informed would be ill equipped to apply any meaningful
critique of this book. Hunter may say that this is because of the weight
of evidence supporting his conclusions; however I suggest that it is due
to the lack of objective facts that always make conspiracies difficult
Generally, if a criminal accused receives a "fair" trial then I am not particularly interested in the fact that some people may disagreewith findings of fact made by a jury. Juries are funny beasts. Ask any trial lawyer what they think a deliberating jury's verdict will be and the answer will be, more often than not, "who knows!". Hodge seems to summarise this book as coming down to a question of which story to believe, the one that holds a mystery man on his mystery yacht responsible or the one that resulted in the conviction of Watson? If Hodge's Foreword were correct then I would not have any particular problem with this book, but it is not. Hunter paints a scene of a complex and comprehensive conspiracy in which police, Crown prosecutors and the judiciary are all complicit. While I agree wholeheartedly that our adversarial system has flaws and that the Watson trial has many worrying aspects particularly in relation to the conduct of the police and the Crown, Hunter's coverage is opportunistic.
Let me give you an example. In dealing with the pre sub judice defamation of Watson (a point Hunter borrows from a Masters thesis by Cate Brett whom he references heavily) Hunter's argument falls into the absurd. Remembering that a central tenet of his argument is that lawyers, the police and the judiciary were all out to "get" Watson, Hunter states, (p 50):
“A similar process occurred with the widely disseminated rumour that Scott Watson was responsible for the disappearance of Nancy Frey. Ms Frey was an American who disappeared from Great Barrier Island,... in September 1997. The rumour mill worked in perfect order on this story. I was reminded of it in 2001 by a colleague who has a High Court judge as a family friend. The judge knew that Watson had "done" Nancy Frey too. I was told the same more recently by a friend who quoted a colleague who knew this because his brother had told him. The brother is a lawyer. [But wait, the plot thickens] ... In 2002 a friend told me that an acquaintance had been told by a man from ESR, who had learned it from the police, that Watson was responsible for Nancy Frey's disappearance. All of these informants from the legal industry the judge, the lawyer, and the policeman were obviously confident in the story they were spreading.”
Oh, of course, how could I not see the inherent logic of this reasoning?
The entire legal fraternity was obviously against Watson.
The often sloppy presentation of his points aside, Hunter does raise fundamental problems with the Watson trial. The conduct of police in failing to formally declare Watson a suspect despite all the indicators and their colourful interpretation of "facts" included within affidavits filed in support of interception applications are, at times, troublesome. Hunter also identifies often subtle deviations in the Crown's summary of testimony that, according to Hunter, were part of a devious plan by the Crown to trick witnesses and the jury. Hunter even states that in calling 500 witnesses over the course of the three month trial that the Crown fulfilled its goal of confusing the jury. Difficulties do arise in regard to the identification of Watson (or lack of it) and the existence of the mystery ketch. However, far from a supporting a Crown conspiracy Hunter's plausible explanations in the alternative suggest an incompetent defence team, or that our jury system cannot be relied on in long complex cases or that they fail to understand "beyond reasonable doubt".
After criticising the trial judge for what he sees as obvious examples of bias, Hunter sets his sights on the Court of Appeal. One point he makes carries weight. It relates to the "two trip theory" which was ostensibly raised by the Crown in its closing address. While the Crown stated that it was merely a suggestion the defence saw it as an undisclosed allegation that had not received any attention throughout the trial. In effect, the defence had been ambushed by the Crown in this regard. While Hunter does show the weakness of the Court of Appeal's assertion that this issue had been specifically addressed in cross examination, the decision of the Court of Appeal could also be interpreted as meaning that the issue leading to the suggestion of the two trip theory had been adequately addressed. Greater, more specific questioning could have been directed at this issue but whether that constitutes a breach of fair trial is arguable.
Weeding out some of Hunter's more ridiculous claims, he does have a point. The pragmatic pressure on the Crown to secure a conviction stands at odds with its role of presenting the facts dispassionately. High profile cases are where such friction is at its most intense. Pressures to close a case can blind investigators to other, equally logical, explanations of the facts. This may, or may not have occurred in this case but I am certain that Hunter's often unwise opinions do little to convince me that that was the case.
The other significant difficulty is in Hunter's selfconfessed focus; to place the boot on the other foot. His points are so completely one sided that as a reader I was unable to reach my own informed decisions on matters. Even on Hunter's evidence of eye witness accounts as to the hair style of the "mystery man" the Crown say was Watson, doubt existed. Such accounts included a man with:
• a fringe covering a widow's peak;
• hair no more than two inches long;
• hair down to his ears;
• hair down to the top of his collar; and
• hair down to his shoulders.
Add to this that Guy Wallace, the water taxi pilot, positively identified
Watson in a photo and I can see how a reasonable jury may have come to
a positive conclusion on the issue of identification. However, of course,
the police had manufactured that evidence as well by including a 'blink
photo' which acted to trick Wallace into his positive identification.
In summary, the Watson trial is troublesome. Kevin Hunter does raise some interesting and important questions about the evidence and the operation of the trial. However, Hunter's opinion is often pesky and ill informed and often anything but a "cogent critique" as suggested by Bill
Hodge. To my mind, this book is not in the same league as Lynley Hood's A City Possessed. Hunter states at the beginning of this book that he had not consulted with Watson but he thought that Watson would approve of Hunter's focus on the Crown case. That may be so, but I believe that Watson should be aggrieved that Hunter did not do a better job of it. But perhaps I am also part of the conspiracy against Watson?
New Zealand Law Journal June 2007
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The above review was published in June but the author / publisher was unaware of this until August. The following commentary on the review has been sent (22 September 07) to the editor of the New Zealand Law Journal for publication.
New Zealand Law Journal
Dear Mr Robertson
Re review, Trial By Trickery
Readers of the review you published of my book Trial By Trickery
in June should know its history.
The Journal received from me an advance copy of the book in late January and said it would be sent out for review. In March I was told a suitable reviewer had not been found. In May you were unable to inform me whether further progress had been made. In late July I heard a rumour that there had been a negative review in the Journal and on 20 July the following email correspondence ensued:
“Dear Law Journal, I have been told that you have published a review of my book Trial By Trickery. Is this true? If so I would like to acquire a copy. Pease advise how I can do this.”
“Hello Keith, I was trying to think where it may have been published and I am not to (sic) sure. Would you be able to go back to whom ever informed you of this and find out where they saw this?
If you have any further questions please call Customer Service on 0800 800 986 or email email@example.com”
Brennan Coulson , Customer Services Representative
Some weeks later I discovered that Mr Coulson had, seemingly, not consulted the content, the index, or even the cover of the previous month’s issue. Nor, I trust, the editor.
And the objective reviewer you commissioned after scouring the country over a period of months? He had been involved in Ben and Olivia’s social circle. He had also been an official in the Blenheim office of the Justice Department and, for your readers, remembered darkly and irrelevantly the office having dealings with Scott Watson. He is now employed at the institution which published Cate Brett’s academic paper Control of the Crime Story, which, along with its author, fares very poorly in Trial By Trickery. This suitable reviewer, standard-bearer for a system of criminal litigation that few argue seeks justice or truth, is a former student and now youthful colleague of Brett’s supervisor, the University of Canterbury’s Professor John Burrows.
What history must a potential reviewer have for the Journal to disqualify him from consideration as a reviewer? What history must he have to disqualify himself? Your choice of reviewer, his accepting the commission and your reticence in notifying me either before or after publication are reflective of the condition which provoked the book in the first place, the justice system’s moral and ethical vacuum. His, and your, misquoting of my name further the reflection. I meekly, given the journalist’s humble status delicately observed by Mr Gullavin, recommend that he pursue his academic career in a territory which excludes ethical considerations and where he is not so openly vulnerable to accusations of rank bias.
As for the review - it is mystifying, illogical and, in respect of its various misquotations, incompetent. For instance nowhere does the book quote any witness as attributing to the mystery man hair “no more than two inches long” or “down to his ears”. On the contrary, its specific message is that no-one described him thus. The reviewer might have explained how even an academic who ‘does not profess to have any superior knowledge’ about the trial of Scott Watson can accuse anyone at all of being ‘ill-informed’ about it, let alone someone, be it only a journalist, who claims considerable such knowledge. Most usefully of all he might have identified the mysterious conspiracy he has discovered in the book and repeatedly pronounced to be its central issue. Since, barring the machinations of the prosecution team, no such conspiracy occurred or is claimed, the writer is unaware of its presence in his writing. Nor is one present in the extract Mr Gullabin has borrowed from the book, a sad commentary on his comprehension of written language.
Perhaps the answer is provided on the internet where your reviewer claims the title of 2001 ‘Fourth Best Oralist in Australasian Mooting’, and perhaps fourth best oralists speak more often and more fluently than they read. This would help to explain why he needs a crystal ball to pronounce on Watson’s innocence. For me the evidence is sufficient - to determine both the innocence of the accused and the guilt of his accusers. But the evidence is written down in the book where it has inevitably escaped the oralist Mr Gullibin’s academic notice, as the prosecutors’ true case escaped everyone’s notice in court until it was, conveniently for the Crown, too late for Watson to oppose it.
Author and Publisher, Trial By Trickery
For the New Zealand Law Journal Review click here
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Further correspondence has been exchanged with the New Zealand Law Journal. The magazine’s editor, Bernard Robertson, has pointed out that Mr Gallavin did not make him aware of any of his connections with the case or the people involved. Mr Robertson has now been asked to seek his reviewer’s responses to some further matters. In the following extract from an email to Mr Robertson, the first six questions, a-f, were proposed by a reader of the book disturbed by Gallavin’s academic standards.
(Ex email to the New Zealand Law Journal, 27 September):
Dear Mr Robertson.....
(A reader writes) :
a. In Gallavin's opinion "A very strong case can be put in support of a miscarriage of justice." The Court of Appeal apparently did not agree. What is the basis of his very strong case?
b. Which examples of "judicial bias" does Gallavin find "laughable"?
c. Which examples of "prosecutorial manipulation of evidence" does Gallavin think are "laughable"?
d. What are Gallavin's "kernels of truth" that are clouded by the "laughable" examples?
e. What are the "ridiculous claims" that Gallavin has had to "weed out"?
f. What are the opinions that Gallavin considers to be "often unwise" and "often pesky and ill informed"?
I remind you of my request for Mr Gullabit to explain the conspiracy he has identified as the subject of the book. I add to this the further questions :
g. Considering his opinion that "all but the most well-informed would be ill-equipped to apply any meaningful critique of this book' and that he himself "(does) not profess to have any superior knowledge " about the case, why did he agree to do the review ?
h. Given his lack of superior knowledge, how does he know that my points are "completely onesided", how does he know that there is another side, and what is that other side?
i Again, lacking superior knowledge, how and from where has he derived evidence that my views are preconceived rather than the product of the research he notes is "comprehensive"?
j Specifically, is he not concerned that Court of Appeal's words "an examination of the transcript shows that there was extensive cross-examination (on the scenario on which Watson was convicted)" are entirely untrue, and are they significant only in that they mean that the Court considered 'adequately addressed' a matter which had not been addressed at all?
k. In respect of his concern at "the lack of objective facts", is he claiming that I invented the several hundreds of quotations which make up the bulk of the book, the verbatim excerpts it quotes paragraph after paragraph, page after page, chapter after chapter, from the press, from witnesses and from counsel speeches and court judgments, each and every one identified and substantiated by name, source, date, statement number, or as direct courtroom evidence or cross examination? Does he not consider these objective facts, has his education not yet encompassed the meaning of these words, or is he just a very young, very ignorant, prejudiced and not very academic academic?
It is my practice to post significant correspondence regarding the book on my website trialbytrickery.com. You will note that I have posted there my original letter, which I wrote for publication by you in the Journal. I will not publish your letter in response as I had not informed you of this practice. However I advise that this present letter will be posted and further correspondence between us relating to the book may well be posted publically as well.
For the New Zealand Law Journal Review click here.
For the first commentary on the NZLJ click here
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The following review, by Stephen Price of Victoria University of Wellington, was published in the New Zealand Law Society's fortnightly newsletter "Law Talk" on 4 June. The book's author/publisher received a copy of the review prior to its publication:
Trial by Trickery
Reviewed by Steven Price*
WAS Scott Watson guilty? Journalist Keith Hunter thinks not. We’re not talking "reasonable doubt" here. Hunter thinks Watson is "demonstrably innocent". This compelling book set out his reasons.
Scott Watson, of course, was the owner of the infamous sloop Blade, anchored near Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds that fateful New Year’s Eve in 1997. Two years later, he was convicted of luring fellow partygoers Ben Smart and Olivia Hope to his boat and murdering them. The following year, the Court of Appeal turned down his appeal. The book is a meticulous dissection of the evidence against Watson, and fleshes out the allegations in Hunter’s 2003 documentary Murder on the Blade?
Let’s look at his case:
· The main witness against Watson, Guy Wallace – the water taxi driver who supposedly dropped Watson (along with Smart and Hope) off on the Blade – now insists it wasn’t him, and that he was hoodwinked into making the identification.
· Wallace, and everyone else who identified the guilty man, said he had at least medium-length, unkempt, wavy hair that evening. Photographs taken that day show that Watson’s hair was very short and trim.
· Wallace and the other passengers at the time also insist that it wasn’t the Blade that Ben Smart and Olivia Hope were dropped off onto. It was a much bigger boat, with complex rigging; a ketch that you had to reach up to from a water taxi, unlike the Blade. What’s more, there were plenty of sightings of such a ketch in Endeavour Inlet and the Sounds that New Year.
· The evidence of Watson’s arrival time at Erie Bay kept getting pushed back during the investigation – to give Watson time to steam out into Cook Strait and dump the bodies, it seems. But even with his arrival at its latest, and his boat speed at its maximum, the trip was physically impossible in that timeframe.
· The Crown’s "two-trip" theory (sprung on the jury at the last moment) was that Watson had returned to the Blade at 2am and then gone back to shore where he was seen at about 2:45am. But this is disproved by the occupants of the boat Blade was tethered to. Put together, their evidence is that he arrived some time around 3am, certainly not significantly earlier.
Ah, yes, you think, as you read this. So why did he scrub the boat clean – including all those cassette tapes? In fact, the police’s own expert said only 30% of the surfaces were wiped, and probably fewer than half the cassettes.
But didn’t Watson paint the boat cabin afterward? Yes, as he had announced he was going to do the previous month.
But what about those scratches on the hatch – made by desperately scrabbling fingernails? Well, the hatch actually opened from the inside. Anyway, some of the scratches went right under the edge of the cover, and included parts on the side that couldn’t be reached when it was closed.
Still, weren’t there secret witnesses who said he’d confessed to them in jail? Well, yes, though their stories were implausible and one has since recanted. The other got very friendly prosecution treatment after giving his evidence.
Okay – then how does Hunter explain Olivia’s hairs on Watson’s blanket? This is the single most damning piece of evidence. The thing to note here is that the scientist who looked at the bags of hairs from Watson’s blanket didn’t notice any blonde hairs and couldn’t find any hairs at all that were testable for DNA. It was only after the police had visited Olivia’s home and taken samples of her hair, that the scientist took another look at the bags of hairs from the blanket – and found a hair that matched Olivia’s. I think we can be forgiven a doubt about that evidence.
Hunter asserts that those involved in securing Watson’s conviction were party to a horrendous miscarriage of justice. He says the police were deceptive and tunnel-visioned, the media helped spread damaging misinformation and the prosecutors misled the jury.
They’re serious allegations. But Hunter explains his grounds for them. His case is persuasive. The onus now, I think, is on the police and prosecution to answer it. What has Hunter got wrong? What other evidence has he missed out that should convince us that Watson is guilty? Is there a good response to his allegations of police and prosecution misconduct?
I phoned the police and asked those questions. I was told that Rob Pope, who was in charge of the Watson investigation and is now Deputy Police Commissioner, hadn’t read the book and didn’t want to relitigate the case, which after all had been through an appeals process.
Not good enough, I say.
Hunter has raised serious questions here, and they go to the heart of public confidence in the administration of justice. The fact that an innocent man may be in jail is just the beginning of what should trouble us about this case.
Trial by Trickery – Scott Watson, the Sounds Murders and the Game of Law by Keith Hunter, Hunter Productions Ltd, 2007. ISBN 9780473117214. $29.99 (incl GST). Paperback 294pp. Available from www.trialbytrickery.com and in bookshops.
*Steven Price is a Wellington lawyer and journalist, with an LLB (Hons),
a BA and a Master of Journalism UC Berkeley. Steven is an adjunct lecturer
at Victoria University’s law faculty.
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From ‘Doubtful Sounds’
Weekend Herald story 10 March , by Phil Taylor
....Scott Watson was "done like a dinner" from the first days of the inquiry when police decided he was responsible, says Keith Hunter....
The conviction of Watson, he contends, not only falls short of the test of reasonable doubt but was contrary to the evidence; the media was manipulated; witnesses whose accounts did not fit the police scenario were bullied, moulded or discarded; and the trial seemed to Hunter more an exercise of gamesmanship than a pursuit of truth.
His book Trial By Trickery, Scott Watson, the Sounds Murders and the Game of Law calls for an inquiry into how an investigation, a trial and an appeal process went so wrong...
"The public was misled and the jury was misled," Hunter says. "It's an extraordinary story about how an inquiry and a case can go wrong from day one."
The Court of Appeal had failed to ensure the trial was fair and the conviction safe, he says. The worst court element was that the trial judge and, later, the Court of Appeal, allowed the prosecution to introduce a new scenario during its closing address....The Crown introduced (the theory) says Hunter, at a time when it impossible for the defence to counter. If it was a calculated tactic, it worked. Had the Crown put the assertion during evidence its improbability would been exposed, Hunter says..
Hunter says that in rejecting the defence's appeal....the Court of Appeal made a "most grave" error..... "The judgment recognises an entire body of trial transcript that doesn't exist."
......Hunter has not spoken to or met Watson. It's not about him, he says, but the adequacy of the case against him. ...
"It was a systemic disaster. The problems were in every area: police, prosecution, judge and Court of Appeal."
What does he think happened to Hope and Smart? A boat came in from overseas on drug business. It did its business and went away, he says. "I think the guy who took Olivia and Ben was doing exactly what Scott Watson was accused of doing - looking for a woman to take away on his boat - and I think that he succeeded. "It's not a very nice story and is not one that I would want to hear as a parent."
But neither, he says, is a story about a conviction having been gained from such a flawed process.
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Hunter puts justice on trial By ROY BURKE - Waikato Times 9 March 2007
...Is our justice system perverted, as full of tricks as an All Black World Cup backline? Do the police choose a candidate as an "offender" and tailor results of their "inquiries" to pull him down? Do they not allow the truth to get in the way of "winning" a successful prosecution? Should New Zealand's Parliament take a hard look at our adversary-based criminal justice system and rebuild it to a format that delivers justice rather than a winning score?
Keith Hunter, a veteran investigative television journalist, believes so.......
...If justice is to be done the police rape trials and the parole system furore will not bury the Scott Watson issue, nor the weaknesses and injustices in our present police and courts system Hunter's book drags into the light.
Hunter's book is an indictment of the police team on the Watson case. It pillories team leader Detective Inspector (now Deputy Commissioner) Rob Pope who is accused of misinforming the public, witnesses and the courts. He is accused of manipulating witnesses so their statements promote police preconceptions, and of destroying Watson's reputation with press releases long before an arrest was made. ...
.....The Crown is accused of misquoting evidence. Is this a common tactic in our courts?
Trickiest of all was the Crown's concealment of its real case against Watson till it was too late for Watson's thin team to mount a defence.
Hunter tears to pieces Watson's trial and the performance of trial judge Richard Heron. Error after error is underlined. The Appeal Court hearing, too, is shredded.
Trial By Trickery leaves the reader more than uncomfortable, for any one of us could find ourself in the same frame. Hunter, though he uses the Watson case as his medium, chooses the justice system as his primary target. .....
...This challenge now lies before the lawmakers –- the justice system and Scott Watson are in their hands.
Trial By Trickery is a careful and significant book packed with so much detail it demands a nimble mind to keep up. It rates with Lynley Hood's A City Possessed, about the Peter Ellis case.
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From the ‘Kiwiboomers’ website - Reviewed by Melita Smith
Trial by Trickery is a carefully documented account of some of the evidence that appears to have been omitted or manipulated to suit the Prosecution's case. It's hard not to feel unsettled by Keith Hunter's book. An award-winning journalist and producer of the documentary 'Murder on the Blade?' Hunter has put forward a powerful and detailed account of the anomalies and omissions of this trial and all that preceded it. Hunter drew his information from witness statements, police job sheets and photographs, transcripts of the depositions hearing, videotape of the High Court Trial and documentation of the Court of Appeal hearing.
The repeated assurance by Police that 'there is no suspect' lasted five months and allowed the press and public to speculate and circulate rumours in ways which could not have happened if a suspect had been arrested and charged. Hunter says this police stance lasted for five months, until the day Watson was arrested.
'At no time during that period did they ever publicly have a 'suspect'. As a result, the pages of our magazines and newspapers were filled with subtly damning stories about Scott Watson and evidence against him - a five month trial by media in which Watson had neither the right to a defence nor any means of supplying one' writes Hunter. By the time Scott Watson stood trial in June 1999 many had already formed an opinion.
There are many equally disturbing revelations about the prosecution in this case, ranging from the actions of the investigating team to judges and representatives of the judiciary. ......His book is not only a compelling investigation but also an indictment on our adversarial system. Something seems to have gone awfully wrong in this case - but doesn’t that sound all too familiar now?
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Assoc Professor Bill Hodge, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland.
“I have to admit that I was one who followed the case lightly, and I had gained the impression that Watson had both cut his long shoulder-length hair and scrubbed out his sloop the day or so after New Year's Eve. But I hadn't followed it very closely at all. Now I have a different view….
… This is a work of integrity, not a cheap shot, once-over-lightly Sunday supplement.
… The book is so solid…it is a legitimate critique of the adversary system, and what can still be a contest, not a search for truth. I think it will be a welcome addition to the library, growing library, of penetrating books on leading cases of criminal injustice in New Zealand.”
Dr Lynley Hood, Author of “A City Possessed”.
I've just finished reading Trial By Trickery. It's a powerful and brilliant book. My warmest congratulations.
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Chris Watson, Scott’s Father
“The facts presented here illustrate not only the unfairness of my son’s trial but the demonisation process which occurred in the months leading up to it. Will the justice system take note of this book and act?