Justice Department "fixes" trial of court employee

Wednesday 5 March 2014, 3:19PM
By New Zealand Justice Forum


Last week, on a quiet Monday afternoon in the Porirua District Court, Judge Arthur Tompkins dealt with a case that up until recently would have been put to a jury to decide whether or not the Crown had proven its case. Now days, an offence has to attract a penalty of 2 or more years imprisonment before an accused is entitled to request a jury trial.

Judge Tompkins was called in from Hamilton to preside over the trial because of the difficulty in finding a Wellington judge who did not know the complainant, the registrar of the Court of Appeal, Clare O'Brien.

Ms O'Brien made a complaint to police last September that she had been assaulted by a process server outside the Court of Appeal in Wellington. Although the incident occurred in Wellington and the complaint laid with the Wellington Police, the case was dealt with in Porirua to avoid any media scrutiny. The court subsequently heard that the decision to prosecute the case had been taken before witnesses had been interviewed, with the Constable charge of the case, Gareth Kearney saying he; "didn't need to speak to other witnesses first because his orders to pursue the matter had come from above."

In the lead up to the trial several applications were made by the defendant for disclosure of CCTV footage of the encounter outside the Aitken Street entrance of the Court. It was here the defendant alleged that Clare O'Brien had first committed an assault by "swatting" a cellphone being used to take a picture of her to confirm service.

Several documents were filed by the police confirming that the Justice Department/Court of Appeal claimed to have held no footage of the incident. However a few weeks before the trial, the defendant struck up a chance conversation with a Court Security Officer who admitted reviewing the footage three days after O'Brien first made her complaint of assault. It was put to the officer in Court that; "had this footage shown O'Brien being assaulted rather than the other way around, then it would have been key evidence against the defendant and preserved."

Despite the facts before the court that the Justice Department had obviously misled the police and the court about this critical evidence, further inquiry was not possible after security staff admitted that the footage had most likely been expired from the system, despite the fact that it was critical evidence in the proceeding.

The Court heard evidence from all the witnesses, including the complainant which confirmed that Clare O'Brien had pushed the defendant first, thereby committing an assault. However in a bizarre twist of perverse reasoning which confirmed the depraved and corrupt nature of the proceedings, Judge Tompkins ruled that despite all the evidence to the contrary,Clare O'Brien had in fact been assaulted first before pushing the defendant.

A sentencing hearing will take place in the Porirua District Court on 20 March 2014 and an appeal will be filed by with the High Court thereafter.