At last, some common sense, Ctd

John Roughan takes aim at the dummy-spitting judge who let 21 hardened crim gang-members out on the street:

Was it really necessary to let indignation ruin a police case?

Undercover police work is probably the most dangerous public service anyone can be asked to do in this country. As an ordinary citizen, I don’t find it offensive that police would fake a prosecution to protect someone’s cover.

I find it harder to credit that a High Court judge would let 21 people off criminal charges to demonstrate judicial indignation.

If you didn’t read the news closely, or heard it only on TV, you might have the impression the phony prosecution was the one that was thrown out this week. It wasn’t.

The charade was done in a district court sometime earlier and Justice Simon France concedes it did not prejudice the case in front of him.

Nevertheless, he decided a stay of prosecution was necessary to protect the courts from deception and declare that the police must not abuse its procedures to assist a criminal investigation. Really?

An activist judge, who clearly doesn’t live in Nelson has let 21 bad bastards out on the streets.

Justice France thinks the Chief Judge, the late Russell Johnson, was not aware that this one was a complete set-up and that this would have made a difference to Judge Johnson, who I knew when he was a very popular prosecutor in Auckland.

Maybe the police deceived him. They were a little deceptive in their testimony to Justice France, not letting on initially that they had written their guidelines for a planned prosecution after the event.

Yet he prefers to conclude they did not intend to deceive anybody and believed they were acting legally. They were merely “reckless” and “unwise” not to have sought wider advice.

Why, then, did he find it necessary to undo all their work and grant the 21 arrested a stay of prosecution?

“A fraud is being committed on the courts,” he said. “The judges who are dealing with it are being treated in a disrespectful way. Their time is being taken up with a fiction.”

Forgive me some disrespect; time is not exactly a priority in the judicial process, as anyone who has answered a call to jury service well knows.

More seriously, Justice France declared, “It is no function of the court to facilitate a police investigation by lending its processes to the false creation of street credibility. The courts are not part of police investigation. There is and can be no suggestion of collaboration.”

Fine words, if they were true. What about when undercover officers are allowed to be charged under a false name?

“Perhaps the two situations are quite similar,” he concedes, “But from my viewpoint all that does is call into question the correctness of the false name practice.” Oh dear.

Undercover police work happens a long way from a High Court bench. It is not only dangerous, it is difficult. It has to deceive innocent people as well as the guilty if the agent is to be effective and safe.


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  • Mitch82

    Everyone I’ve mentioned this to thinks the police were completely right in doing what they did. It might not fit the letter of the law, but one comment by the police summed it up for me – that they had to start getting creative in infiltrating gangs.

  • Brian Smaller

    So many judges live in a blinkered world divorced from reality.

  • cows4me

    I don’t believe the judge had any choice. If a defence lawyer found that evidence had been planted by police then their would be hell to pay. Also you expect a judge to turn a blind eye to what you may perceive to be a public good, so will the next case also be for the public good and the next one? And at what stage does doing for the “public good’ cross the line and who will say it has?

  • Sym Gardiner

    I disagree. Police have to play by the rules they are meant to enforce. They should be above reproach.
    We now have a small string of stitch ups. The Police need to knuckle under, get smarter and play by the rules.

    • Ratchet

      Then perhaps the rules the police operate under need to be reviewed. The gangs certainly don’t have rules they adhere to, and god knows they don’t give a flying fuck about the feelings of the police, judiciary or general public as a whole.

      Liberal attitudes feature far too heavily in the justice system. Judges need a dose of reality to get them to see the true cost of gang activity in both directly and indirectly.

      • Sym Gardiner

        The problem is that if you compromise and start behaving illegally to catch criminals, you’ve crossed the line and become a criminal yourself. In all walks of life, being above reproach is the best long term strategy. It is even more so when you are in a position of authority.

        • Mitch82

          I’ve read quite a few books on the New York Mafia, which is a good example, the Donnie Brasco operation and a few others. I don’t there were any undercovers ‘convicted’ to help street cred, but they certainly used alot of creative approaches to get their guys in amongst the crims.

          Policing has to evolve as crime evolves, and the law needs to keep up.

        • AzaleaB

          You raise a good point regarding ‘crossing the line’ but it is hard to win when both sides play a different game. If the police are overly constrained, they will never made any inroads into gang criminal activities. Neverthless, involving the judiciary in a more upfront way may help that line not being crossed but rather legally shifted for the purpsoes of a better overall societal outcome.

          In this instance – it is not the ‘what’ the police did that was in error, it was the ‘how’ by treating the legal requirements too lightly. A little to Machiavellian.

          • Sym Gardiner

            The way I look at it is that you have to be dumb to be a criminal. The gains are small, temporary and the lost opportunity from being locked up is too great (unless you are dumb that is).
            So the Police need to be patient. Someone might get away for a bit but eventually they will “mis-step”. Then the justice system (including the soft as judges) need to throw the proverbial book.

          • AzaleaB

            Unfortunately in terms of gangs – the gains are actually quite large financially according to a cop friend of mine. Being locked up individually is a badge of honour. However, shutting down a major operation with multiple arrests is what they fear most. Re-establishing an operation that is fully shut down takes time and finance.

          • Mitch82

            It’s an interesting line. The crims now know that the Police have, on at least one occasion given a UC a conviction for credibility. Now, will they believe that’s the end of it? Do we say “the public supports this” and let the crims know the Police will continue to use this trick?

            Things will likely start getting very paranoid and heated in the HQ’s, really hope this case being blown isn’t going to put any other UC’s at risk.

  • blazer

    as the lawyer said…dont break the law to enforce the law…you rednecks cant have it both ways.

    • AzaleaB

      Sigh..still negative today Blazer. Look outside – the sun is still shining and some people are even smiling ( that is when the corners of your mouth turn upwards).

  • redeye

    Sorry but they deceived the courts. If they start getting away with that then it’s very slippery indeed.

  • smega rocket

    Police illegally search a property with a warrant they had signed themselves. They should face criminal charges.

    • Middleagedwhiteguy

      Police searched a lock up they themselves owned, to preserve the illusion that the UC was a criminal. No innocent person’s rights were infringed. The police set up the lock up, placed the goods in there. It was not an illegal search, as it was not a search at all. Think of it as a training exercise.

      The danger to innocents was the judge staying the prosecutions that resulted from the operation that this was a part of.

  • Teletubby

    So the way the MSM have reported this, the case was thrown out as essentially a punishment to the police. If, and it is a big if, that is the case, then, I for one would like to see some of my tax dollars spent appealing that decision because I doubt the judge has the power to turf out a case because the prosecution upset the poor little petal.

    If he has dismissed the case because the actions of the police have made crucial evidence inadmissible that is different as it has some basis in law. As reported this all reeks of a judge making up his own laws, last time I checked that was parliament’s job.

    A few years ago an ex UC cop told me a tiny bit of what he experienced, some of it was pretty terrifying, he could never talk about what happened when they decided he was a cop other than that there was a beating, he had a sawn shoved in his mouth and he spent about 6 weeks in hospital. He was still having nightmares 10 yrs later. Maybe some these judges need to realise what these guys go through and the risks they take

  • Great judge, for once. The cops have to be straight – and this case shows policw are still as corrupt as in Arthur Allan Thomas days. And the gangs are only dealing what should be legalised between adults.

    • Middleagedwhiteguy

      You have it wrong. This was not planting evidence to prosecute the gang. This was an operation to help establish the UC officer’s credentials within the gang.