Criminals given chance to appeal convictions after police prosecution blunder

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Dec 2021, 1:06PM
The affected individuals are eligible to file appeals to have the convictions overturned. Photo / NZME
The affected individuals are eligible to file appeals to have the convictions overturned. Photo / NZME

Criminals given chance to appeal convictions after police prosecution blunder

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Dec 2021, 1:06PM

Sexual offenders are among criminals given the opportunity to appeal their convictions after a police audit of hundreds of prosecutions since 2008 found mistakes. 

The "comprehensive" audit of 663 prosecutions found 10 cases where charges were filed without consent from the Attorney-General, that resulted in a conviction. 

Four were for sexual offences under the Crimes Act 1961, three were for inciting racial disharmony under the Human Rights Act 1993, and there were three offences under the Aviation Crimes Act 1972. 

But without consent the convictions are deemed unlawful, police said. 

The previously convicted criminals are now eligible to file appeals to have their convictions overturned, with police even offering to facilitate legal representation. 

They have each been contacted by police. 

"Police apologises for the error and we have taken immediate steps to ensure this situation cannot be repeated," Deputy Commissioner Jevon McSkimming said. 

"We believe that the error has occurred when police officers, acting in good faith, arranged for charges to be filed without realising that the Attorney-General's consent was required." 

Most people affected were also convicted on other charges that did not require the Attorney-General's consent, and the sentences on those charges still stand, police said. 

"There are two cases on a single charge only where the Attorney General's consent was required but not obtained. 

"The affected individuals received community-based sentences." 

Due to the small number of cases eligible for an appeal, further details have not been provided by police to protect the privacy of those affected. 

Updated guidelines 

Guidelines and processes have been updated for police staff filing proceedings which require consent from the Attorney-General. 

A new daily national reporting system is being instituted, police said, and a safeguard at the National Intelligence Application (NIA) to make sure prosecutions needing consent are "flagged and followed up". 

Police have also been contacting victims in the cases with errors to explain what has occurred and facilitate any support needed. 

- by Miriam Burrell, NZ Herald