Privy Council

Scott Watson:

In 2003 Greg together with Watson’s trial lawyer Mike Antunovic, unsuccessfully took the highly controversial Scott Watson case to the Privy Council in London seeking leave to appeal his convictions for double murder. After reserving their decision the Privy Council declined to grant leave.

 

Bruce Howse;  Privy Council Appeal No.9 of 2005, [2005] UKPC 30:

In 2003 Greg represented convicted double murderer Bruce Howse in the Court of Appeal ([2003] 3 NZLR 767; (2003) 20 CRNZ 826 (CA)). Despite a number of his grounds of appeal being upheld the appeal was dismissed by application of the ‘proviso’ to section 385 of the Crimes Act 1961.

In 2004 Greg successfully obtained leave from the Privy Council to appeal the convictions. This was only the 9th successful leave application in NZ history.

The substantive appeal was heard by the Privy Council in 2005. The appeal focussed on the proper role of the proviso in criminal appeals. In order to apply the proviso the appellate Court must be satisfied that notwithstanding the error or errors with the trial, no substantial miscarriage of justice has resulted. The result was a split decision, with the majority upholding the convictions. The minority, consisting of Lord Rodger of Earlsferry and Sir Andrew Leggatt, strongly disagreed, as is evident from the following passage of their dissenting judgment (paragraph [69]):

“[69]       It is impossible to imagine a clearer example of a trial that has gone off the rails by the admission of evidence which, the law provides, should not be admitted precisely because it is dangerous for a jury to rely on it.  The rules of evidence were designed, precisely, to prevent a trial being conducted on that basis.  Therefore, even if every other aspect of the trial had been perfection itself, in this core respect it would not have been conducted in the way that the law of New Zealand requires.  In fact, however, as the Court of Appeal showed only too clearly, there were many other aspects of the trial which were far from satisfactory.  We forbear to dwell on them.  Even assuming – as we do for the sake of the argument – that none of these other factors, either singly or in combination, would have been enough to make the trial unfair, they certainly exacerbated the position in what was already, when judged by the standards of the law of New Zealand, an unfair trial.  We could use more robust language to describe it but, with difficulty, restrain ourselves from doing so.”

 

 John Barlow;  Privy Council Appeal No.32 of 2008, [2009] UKPC 30:

In 1994 John Barlow was tried three times for the murders of Wellington businessmen Gene and his son Eugene Thomas. The first two trials ended with ‘hung juries’. Barlow was convicted at the third trial after the jury had deliberated for 27 hours. At the third trial the Crown had called an FBI expert from the USA who using a technique called Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis (CBLA) purported to match bullets recovered from the murder scene with bullets in a box of ammunition belonging to Mr Barlow.

In the years following the conviction the technique of CBLA was heavily criticised and discredited. In 2006 Greg was instructed to petition the Governor-General to reopen the case. This was eventually declined and so an appeal was taken to the Privy Council.

The application for leave to appeal was heard by 3 Law Lords in London in July 2008 and adjourned for a full hearing before Five Law Lords in February 2009. Leave was granted to appeal (thereby becoming only the 11th case in NZ criminal history to have leave granted), but the appeal was subsequently declined in a detailed reserved judgment.

Greg has continued to work on the Barlow case and successfully obtained his release on parole in August 2010.

 

 

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