Legal experts volunteer to fight justice miscarriages

  • 05/03/2015

A group of legal experts who volunteered their time on the Teina Pora case say they're now looking to help others who may have been wrongly convicted.

They're setting up their own judicial watchdog because the Government continues to reject calls for an independent panel to investigate potential miscarriages of justice.

It took 20 years of legal fighting for Mr Pora's convictions to be quashed – and for many in the legal community, that's far too long. They say Mr Pora's fight for freedom highlights a weakness in the New Zealand legal system.

"I think it's one of the most significant threats to the integrity of the justice system that we've ever seen in New Zealand," says University or Canterbury law dean Chris Gallavin.

He is spearheading the New Zealand Public Interest Project (NZPIP) – a group of experts who will work for free to uncover serious miscarriages of justice. The project will first only consider public interest cases involving serious criminal offending.

It's been set up in the absence of a state-funded criminal case review panel – like in Britain – because the Prime Minister insists it isn't needed.

But Dr Gallavin doesn't buy the Government's reasoning.

"I think it's easy for them to say the system gets there in the end, because they're not the ones who are actually sitting in a prison cell."

Dr Gallavin says there's a huge justice gap in New Zealand and the process for resolving wrongful convictions needs to be fixed.

"I just don't think it's right that people such as Teina Pora have to languish in a prison cell for more than 20 years to address the miscarriage."

Labour leader Andrew Little backs the idea.

"The state actually has to provide the safety valve – we shouldn't just being relying on well-meaning volunteers."

NZPIP will formally launch in two weeks with more than a dozen barristers, investigators and forensic scientists already on board.

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source: newshub archive