1000 days without justice: Delays keeps fatal bike crash trial out of court

Author
John Weekes, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Apr 2021, 1:53PM
Simon Greenwood with partner Nikki Gapes. Greenwood faced a charge over a Kaipara crash in which Gapes died. Photo / Supplied
Simon Greenwood with partner Nikki Gapes. Greenwood faced a charge over a Kaipara crash in which Gapes died. Photo / Supplied

1000 days without justice: Delays keeps fatal bike crash trial out of court

Author
John Weekes, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Apr 2021, 1:53PM

A series of disasters, bungles and setbacks have delayed the trial of Simon Greenwood and more than 1000 days have passed since he was charged over the death of Nikki Gapes.

Mother-of-three Gapes, 43, was Greenwood's partner. The Auckland couple were in a crash on the Kaipara Coast Highway in January 2018.

Greenwood was charged months later with careless driving causing death and entered a not guilty plea on July 26 that year.

His lawyer David Jones QC, prosecutor Sergeant Paul Wightman and Judge Claire Ryan today outlined incidents which repeatedly caused Greenwood's trial to be delayed.

Jones said a series of systemic delays resulted from North Shore District Court not having a roster which provided for judge-alone trials lasting more than one day.

He today sought a dismissal of proceedings, saying the case should have been a priority fixture last year at the latest, and his client's rights had been breached.

At Auckland District Court, Jones attributed one delay to a "unilateral" decision police made about restricting witnesses during an alert level 3 coronavirus lockdown.

The court heard another delay resulted from a police officer's health problems.

Jones admitted some delays were due to his own lack of availability but said many others were not.

"There must be a point where it has to be said: Enough," Jones added.

He said any attempt to blame the Covid-19 pandemic was a red herring, and coronavirus "seems to be the resort of the desperate".

"I don't know if it's desperate, but it is a resort that's common at the moment," Judge Ryan replied.

Outlining a labyrinthine series of setbacks, Judge Ryan said it wasn't even clear when the case was moved to Auckland from North Shore.

Wightman said the defence and police had both been penalised.

"Police and the defence have been very realistic from the outset by saying this requires a two-day trial."

Wightman said one hearing set for January 2020 had to be cancelled because a defence expert was overseas.

"Police were available every single time on those dates and were trying to progress the matter with all due haste."

A trial set for two days in late May 2020 was canned when a crash expert had a major and unexpected medical disaster.

Wightman said during a snap regional lockdown, one police witness was out of the Auckland area.

"It was unknown at that stage whether the witness would even be able to get back into Auckland. I took the decision to stand the witnesses down, as in not to attend the court."

Wightman also said Greenwood could have sought a lawyer who had a lighter workload than Jones.

Jones said systemic delays and prosecution actions caused delays, but Judge Ryan said much of the delay was "systemic".

Judge Ryan asked lawyers to return tomorrow morning when she may issue her decision on whether the judge-alone trial will proceed.