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News Round-Up Week Ending 5.6.15

(Posted on 05/06/15)

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News Round-Up Week Ending 5.6.15

NZ Murder Convict Wins Battle to Meet Journalist.

Scott Watson, convicted of the 1998 New Year's Day murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in the Marlborough Sounds, has won a court battle which could allow him to meet North and South reporter Mike White and break his 17-year silence, Kurt Bayer writes in the New Zealand Herald.

“'Not guilty', and 'you're wrong',” are the only words to have been heard from Watson to date, his lawyer Kerry Cook said. "He now wishes to talk, and my principal submission is that the chief executive of the Department of Corrections unreasonably stopped New Zealanders from having the opportunity to listen."

Justice Rachel Dunningham found the Department of Corrections’ decision to deny access to have been unreasonable: “Given the value of the right to freedom of expression, and the importance of freedom as to the manner of its exercise, the chief executive has not demonstrated why the limitation he has placed on Mr Watson's exercise of that right is justified.”

“After all this time, wouldn't it be good to finally hear from the person who's at the centre of this very controversial case which does divide people,” Mr White said.

High Court Challenge to Emergency Surveillance Law

Helped by campaign group Liberty, two MPs are to challenge the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, fast-tracked through Parliament over three days last July, arguing that the legislation is incompatible with human rights, according to a BBC report.

The government claimed at the time that the new law was necessary to maintain the UK's ability to fight crime and protect against terrorism but Tom Watson (Lab.) and David Davis (Con.) say it was rushed, lacked adequate safeguards, and needs to be re-thought.

"The government's decision to use emergency powers to enable it to spy on citizens shows the rights of the individual need to be strengthened to ensure the state can't act with impunity,” Mr Watson said. "Even MPs are powerless to prevent such powers being enacted.”

"This Act of Parliament was driven through the House of Commons with ridiculous and unnecessary haste to meet a completely artificial emergency," Mr Davis added.

"People need to understand just how personal this information is that will be taken and retained and what an intimate portrait of their lives it will create,” explained Liberty legal officer Emma Norton. “And there was very little evidence to suggest that by giving police even greater banks of information about people who they don't even suspect of committing crimes it is going to make their jobs - it isn't.”

UK Law on Miscarriage of Justice Incompatible with Human Rights

Lawyers for Sam Hallam and Victor Nealon, whose convictions were quashed in 2013 but whose applications for compensation were rejected last year, are now to ask the High Court to rule that UK law on miscarriage of justice cases is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Emma Bartholomew writes in the Islington Gazette.

The Criminal Justice Act 1988, which governs compensation payments, was amended last March to give a narrower definition of miscarriage of justice. Applicants for compensation must now satisfy the Justice Secretary that “a new or newly discovered fact shows beyond reasonable doubt” that they did not commit the offences for which they were jailed [see NEWS ROUND-UP WEEK ENDING 6.3.15].

The Government’s lawyers are likely to argue that the current rules on compensation do not infringe the presumption of innocence.