Monday, February 25, 2013

Police bribery taints the justice system

The Herald over the weekend had an appalling revelation: the police had bribed multiple witnesses in a controversial murder case:

Police paid witnesses who gave critical evidence in a rape and murder case for which an apparently innocent man has been in jail for 20 years.

The police have refused a request that the Weekend Herald made under the Official Information Act for information about witness payments, but High Court files reveal that $15,000 was paid to three witnesses who testified in trials arising from the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett.

Teina Pora is serving life imprisonment for those crimes.

The case became controversial after DNA testing identified semen in Mrs Burdett's body as being from Malcolm Rewa, a serial rapist who acted alone in all 24 other attacks he has been convicted of.

Pora's conviction was quashed as a result of the DNA evidence, but he was convicted at a retrial in 2000 on the new testimony. But the fact that bribes were paid irrevocably taints that "evidence" and makes it unreliable. It also means that the resulting conviction cannot possibly be regarded as safe. Pora's conviction must be quashed.

Meanwhile, we also need an independent inquiry to find out far this disease has spread and how many other trials have been compromised by police bribery, and those convictions must also be quashed. We cannot allow unsafe convictions tainted by police bribery to stand.

Finally, the police officers responsible for this misconduct need to be held responsible for their acts. When someone accused of a crime bribes witnesses to aid their case, we call it perversion of the course of justice and throw them in jail. We can apply no lesser standard to the police.