Court of Appeal dismisses Tamihere trial perjurer Robert Conchie Harris' sentence appeal

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against the sentence of convicted courtroom liar and double killer, Robert Conchie Harris.

Harris is the jailhouse snitch, known as 'Witness C', who made up evidence in the David Tamihere murder trial 30 years ago.

Last year Harris was sentenced to eight years and seven months jail after being found guilty on eight counts of perjury.

However, Harris' lawyer went to the Court of Appeal claiming the sentence given to his client was "manifestly excessive".

A decision from the Court issued on Friday didn't agree.

It says "we have no doubt that Mr Harris' offending falls into the more serious category of offending. We consider that a nine-year starting point was well within the available range of sentences".

The decision went on to say the starting point adopted by the Judge was within that available to him and for that reason the appeal against sentence is dismissed.

David Tamihere told Newshub he's pleased the Court of Appeal has thrown out the attempt by Harris to get his sentence reduced, but that ultimately it's the conviction which counts.

"The false testimony was significant and serious. To me the important thing is the conviction itself, as he was the first secret witness to get convicted," he said.

The Court's ruling is the latest in a series of legal twists in one of New Zealand's most notorious murder cases.

Harris was one of three inmates who gave evidence against David Tamihere during his 1990 trial.

During the trial, Harris claimed Tamihere had confessed to killing the Swedish backpackers Heidi Paakkonen and Urban Hoglin. The Swedes disappeared in 1989 in the Coromandel, sparking a massive police search.

Harris claimed in Court that Tamihere had told him the bodies had been dumped at sea, and that Tamihere took Mr Hoglin's watch and gave it to his son.

But Mr Hoglin's body was later discovered in bush still wearing the watch near Whangamata and Ms Paakkonen's remains have never been found.

Then inmate Arthur Taylor decided to launch a private prosecution against Harris, which is how the perjury case ended up being heard.

Mr Taylor told Newshub "I'm very pleased the Court of Appeal has seen through Conchie Harris' lies and deceptions." 

He thinks the case should be a wake up call for the New Zealand criminal justice system and says "jailhouse snitch evidence must be treated with extreme caution". 

Harris and the other jailhouse informants, initially known only as Witness A, B and C, got name suppression but Harris' suppression was revoked in April this year. Stephen Kapa was also named as 'Witness B'.

In 1983, Harris executed Carole Pye and his cousin Trevor Crossley at their home in Whangarei. Ms Pye's children came home from school and discovered the bodies.

Harris told his girlfriend at the time that killing the pair was "just like having an ice cream". When he was released from prison most recently, Harris was recalled on the same day for sexually assaulting a young girl.

The perjury conviction aside, Harris has a history of dishonesty.

He forged a letter to the Parole Board saying a trust fund was "in existence" for the children of Ms Pye and Mr Crossley.

The letter purported to be from Harris' lawyer - but when asked by the board, his lawyer responded: "I did not write it and I am concerned about its existence".

Tamihere went to jail for the killings but has always claimed his innocence. His quest to have his name cleared has reached a critical stage.

Tamihere's lawyer, Murray Gibson, has filed duel applications for both a pardon and a request to the Governor General to have the murder case referred to the Court of Appeal to be re-examined.