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Corrections decision on Scott Watson meeting quashed

CIV-2016-409-247

[2016] NZHC 1996

UNDER
the Judicature Amendment Act 1972

IN THE MATTER OF
an application for judicial review of the refusal to allow a meeting between a victim with a journalist present

BETWEEN

SCOTT WATSON
Applicant

AND

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
Respondent


Judgment:
25 August 2016

JUDGMENT OF MALLON J


Introduction

[1] Scott Watson is serving a sentence of life imprisonment, with a minimum non parole period of 17 years, for the murders of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart. He is into his eighteenth year of that sentence. He has always maintained his innocence. He has exhausted his appeal rights and an application for the Royal Prerogative of Mercy has been declined. He is able to make another application but needs new evidence in order to do so.

[2] With that purpose in mind, Mr Watson was interviewed by Michael White, a journalist, at Rolleston prison where he is serving his sentence. The interview took place following approval ultimately granted by the respondent (Corrections), after a High Court decision overturning Corrections’ initial decision to decline the request.

[3] Corrections have since granted permission for Mr Watson to receive a visit from Gerald Hope, the father of Olivia, with Mr White present as facilitator. This permission has been granted on the basis that Mr White does not attend the meeting in his professional capacity as a journalist and he does not record the interview nor write an article about it. Mr Watson challenges this aspect of the decision.

[4] The challenge is brought by way of an application for judicial review. The ground of review is unreasonableness.

[…]

Result

[55] The decision of Corrections dated 3 March 2016 that Mr White may not attend the meeting in his capacity as a professional journalist, record the meeting, and potentially write an article about it is quashed. Corrections is directed to reconsider this decision in light of this judgment.

[56] Costs on a 2B basis are awarded in Mr Watson’s favour. Although indemnity or increased costs were sought, I am not satisfied they are appropriate. While it was open to Mr Watson to bring this proceeding, it was also an option to provide a fuller explanation of the importance of Mr White’s presence as a journalist and to seek a reconsideration of Corrections’ decision in light of that explanation. The practical concerns which Corrections had may then have been able to be addressed. Additionally, once this proceeding was filed, there is nothing about Corrections’ conduct of this proceeding which would warrant an award of increased costs.

Full judgment: WatsonvCECorrections.pdf

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