Meeting between Gerald Hope and Scott Watson to go ahead
Prison meeting between Gerald Hope and Scott Watson to go ahead
The Department of Corrections has agreed to a meeting between Gerald Hope and prisoner Scott Watson, with North & South journalist Mike White also present.
This follows the August 25 ruling of Justice Mallon in the High Court, quashing an earlier decision by the Corrections Department which barred Mr White attending the meeting in his role as a journalist. Justice Mallon ordered the Corrections Department to reconsider its original decision, and the Department recently informed the parties that it would now allow the meeting to proceed.
Both Mr Hope and Mr Watson have long been open to, and sought, a meeting.
Mr Watson was convicted in 1999 of murdering Ben Smart, and Mr Hope’s daughter, Olivia, and remains in prison. He has always maintained his innocence.
Mr Watson has always been willing to meet Mr Hope, but received advice from his lawyers not to advance such a meeting until his legal appeals had been exhausted.
Since 2013, when his application for the Royal Prerogative of Mercy was rejected by the Governor General, Mr Watson’s counsel have supported his efforts to meet Mr Hope.
Mr Hope has for many years expressed his openness to meet Mr Watson and his desire to ask him a number of questions, face to face.
Mr Hope and Mr Watson requested the presence of Mr White at any meeting, as he is well known to both parties, has an intimate knowledge of the case, and is able to act as an independent observer and recorder of the meeting.
The recent decision from the Corrections Department is the latest event in a process that has taken more than three years.
Applications for a meeting between Mr Hope and Mr Watson were rejected by the Corrections Department in 2013 and 2014. A further application for a meeting, with Mr White present in his capacity as a journalist and independent third party, was rejected in March 2016. This decision was the subject of the successful judicial review in the High Court, held in August.
Both Mr Hope and Mr Watson anticipate the way is now finally clear for a meeting between them to proceed, with Mr White in attendance. It is hoped the meeting will take place some time over the coming months.