Wednesday, 16 October 2013

17 October 2013
In the 1980s the Wellington retailer Alan Martin of L.V. Martin & Son became a cult figure for his idiosyncratic television advertisements where he proclaimed, “it’s the putting right that counts”. The slogan became part of the national lexicon and a byword for after sales service.
In 1995 when the United Party was formed cartoonist Tom Scott lampooned the hurried circumstances of the party’s launch with the line,” it’s the getting it about right that counts”.
I thought of that line again last week when Mark Lundy was released on bail pending a new trial for the murder of his wife and daughter. His case follows in the footsteps of David Bain, Arthur Alan Thomas and a few others over the last 40 years. The common thread has been that each of the original convictions was found to be unsafe in some way or other. To date, in each case, subsequent processes have led to either their acquittal or the quashing of the original convictions. It remains to be seen whether Mark Lundy will join that list.
In each case, the “getting it about right” approach to justice has been the problem. Too often, the innocent till proven guilty maxim that supposedly underpins our justice system has given way to the lesser and far more unreliable “they probably did it” approach. While that fits well with our national pragmatism and is probably likely to be right more often than not, it is still a fundamentally haphazard and far too casual way to dispense justice, especially in serious cases.
Unfortunately, and probably more worrying, that approach also influences the ways crimes and other misdemeanours are now investigated by the Police and others. Instead of painstakingly and impartially investigating all aspects of a case from the ground up, New Zealand’s approach is increasingly focused on finding someone responsible, or more likely than not to be responsible. That is based on a sifting sand approach of shaking the issue to see who can be eliminated, and then building a case, often no more than strongly circumstantial, around them in such a way to convince a Court of guilt. The pursuit of truth and justice are often the first casualties. Finding someone on whom the crime can be “pinned” is a far more immediate focus and satisfies the public that the investigators have done their job properly.
But while that remains our focus and while those who gather the evidence remain responsible for prosecuting the cases, situations like the Lundy case and others will continue to occur.  That may satisfy the public pressure for crimes to be solved, but the pursuit of justice will be the casualty. Getting it “about right” in these circumstances definitely does not count!


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  2. Congratulations on speaking out about our so-called justice system in relation to these cases - Thomas, Dougherty, Ellis, Bain, Barlow, to name just the obvious ones.
    Compensating these people with taxpayer money is a small price to pay (if they can be compensated) - but how are fair minded NZers to be compensated for the misuse and hijacking of our justice system, which is supposed to be fair and reasonable. Those in it are paid handsomely to ensure that it is just that (police, judges, prosecution lawyers, professional witnesses). The community is owed compensation from them, preferably jail time equivalent to that served by those unjustly improsined, especially cases in which there was no shadow of a doubt they were innocent eg. Bain, L
    Lundy (they could not have been physically present at the time of the murders). I am sure there would be less 'mistakes' in future.

  3. I am always reminded of Ben and Olivia case in the Marlborough Sounds which is another high profile case and i wonder how we can ensure a more resolute approach to closing cases that seem difficult to close. I am of the mind that adjustments in the training of crime scene investigations needs uplifting.

    As for the Lundy case, aside from media noise on this case since day one, I have my doubts about the release of Mark Lundy. He may be the prime suspect still, but sad to admit the evidence put before court lacks authenticity. This case sets a very dangerous precedent - in that a killer may be loose when proper procedure lacks concrete "Beyond Reasonable Doubt". Did he do it or not? That is what worries me more - public perception will be asking the same thing.

    One: the beyond reasonable doubt evidence before court needs to be concrete
    Two: Prime Suspect needs be imprisoned by that evidence in that there is beyond reasonable doubt the individual did commit first degree murder.