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Immediate pardon constitutionally unsound

Hon Judith Collins

Minister of Justice

11 August 2013       Media Statement       

Immediate pardon constitutionally unsound  

Justice Minister Judith Collins says reports suggesting the Government could issue an immediate pardon to Mr Teina Pora are wrong.

"There would need to be a thorough evaluation of Mr Pora's application for the Royal prerogative of mercy, and that cannot take place alongside his application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council," Ms Collins says.

"As I have previously indicated, there are two options for persons such as Mr Pora who wish to have their convictions reopened: either an appeal to the Privy Council or an application for the Royal prerogative of mercy.

"The Privy Council can quash a person’s conviction and either enter an acquittal or order a retrial.  The Governor-General, who exercises the Royal prerogative of mercy in New Zealand, can grant a pardon or refer a person’s conviction back to the Court of Appeal.

"Mr Pora filed an application for the Royal prerogative of mercy in September 2011. At the time the application was filed, his lawyer advised that the application was incomplete but that he was making concerted efforts to gather further evidence.

"As is entirely appropriate, his lawyer also considered whether an appeal to the Privy Council would better meet the needs of his client.

Which path he chooses - Royal prerogative of mercy or Privy Council appeal, is entirely a matter for Mr Pora and his lawyer.  I understand that Mr Pora has now chosen to pursue the appeal to the Privy Council and an application for leave to appeal will be filed shortly.

"It would be constitutionally unsound for the Government to be considering Mr Pora's convictions at the same time through the Royal prerogative of mercy. That, and the need for a thorough examination of all evidence relied on by the applicant, is why the Government cannot immediately issue a pardon to Mr Pora.

"In Arthur Allan Thomas' case, a pardon was granted only after he had used his appeal rights and his right to apply for the Royal prerogative of mercy. Mr Thomas was granted a pardon after a thorough examination by Robert Adams-Smith QC of the evidence. This followed the Privy Council declining leave to hear Mr Thomas' appeal.

If Mr Pora's Privy Council appeal does not go ahead, or if it is unsuccessful, it is open to Mr Pora to resume his Royal prerogative of mercy application and bring forward all the evidence he wants considered.  The application would have to be fully investigated before the Government decided whether to grant a pardon, refer the case back to the courts or decline the application.

ENDS

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