Update: Steven Wallace Inquest
14 May 2001
Update: Steven Wallace Inquest
this is an update on what has happened since we sent out ‘Steven Wallace: one year on’ (PMA, 30 April 2001). As you may recall, Roger Mori (New Plymouth Coroner) announced in March that the Coroner’s Inquest would begin on 21 May. An application was then received by him from the legal counsel for the three police officers involved in the shooting and for the Police Association applied for an adjournment of the inquest. They are arguing that the Inquest cannot be held while there is a possibility of a private prosecution against the police officers involved as it may be prejudicial to their interests. That application was scheduled to be heard in the New Plymouth Coroner’s Court on Friday 27 April, but was then adjourned until 21 May.
In early May, Dermot Nottingham published on his website a report of his private investigation into Steven’s death together with a photograph of the officer who shot him. As a consequence, there was a statement made by John Rowan QC on behalf of Steven’s family who pointed out that Nottingham was not acting on the family’s behalf and “It is not helpful and I do not intend to give any credence or support to Mr Nottingham because of it.”
As well, there were various statements from politicians about the need to introduce legislation to protect the identity of police officers involved in ‘serious incidents’ - Phil Goff is apparently looking into it, Wayne Mapp supports the idea, Act does not ... “Secret witness provisions are a blot on our legal system. If anyone is proposing changes that could in an unhappy future hide some secret police execution squad, ACT will ensure it doesn’t get an easy ride into Parliament” (Stephen Franks, 7 May 2001) !
Also on 7 May, Sally Hughes (the lawyer acting for the police officers) said that they would refuse to give evidence to the Coroner’s Inquest unless Steven Wallace’s family stated that they would not pursue a private prosecution in the future. Her statements have added to the public unease about the lack of official progress towards justice in this situation. If the officers were indeed acting within the law as the internal police inquiry had us believe, then why is their lawyer applying for a postponement of the Inquest in case evidence is presented which is prejudicial to them? And why the statements that they will refuse to give evidence at the Inquest unless all chance of a private prosecution is dropped? It simply does not make sense. If their actions were within the law, then surely they would welcome the opportunity to give evidence publicly about what happened on the night of 30 April 2000.
On 8 May, Roger Mori announced that due to his professional association with some of those who would give evidence at the Inquest, he was handing the files relating to Steven’s death over to George Matenga, the Hamilton Coroner. George Matenga will travel to New Plymouth on 21 May to hear the application to postpone the Inquest and it is expected that he will make a decision on that and other applications later next week and set the date for when the Inquest will be held.
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