Briefing to the Justice Minister

Ross Francis made this Official Information request to Ministry of Justice

The request was partially successful.

From: Ross Francis

Dear Ministry of Justice,

In December 2017, the Justice Ministry provided information to its Minister about establishing a Criminal Cases Review Commission. At paragraph 4 of that paper, entitled “Proposed Model for establishing a Criminal Cases Review Commission”, officials say: “The CCRC’s function would be to refer a conviction or sentence in a criminal case back to the appeals court where it considers a miscarriage of justice might have occurred.”

According to records held including information held in the minds of officials, would the proposed CCRC have the power, as the Justice Ministry does currently, to recommend that an applicant be pardoned?

At paragraph 72 of the above briefing paper, the Ministry says that the “composition of the membership of the CCRC will be critical in promoting confidence in its decision-making abilities and independence”.

Has the Ministry recommended to the Minister that specific criteria should apply in regards to who is appointed to the CCRC? If so, what is the recommended criteria? According to records held including information in the minds of officials, does the Ministry believe that a friend of the trial judge should be able to be appointed to investigate any application to the CCRC? (On the advice of Ministry officials, Sir Thomas Eichelbaum was appointed to chair the Ministerial Inquiry into the Peter Ellis case. Eichelbaum had nothing but praise for Justice Neil Williamson – the Ellis trial judge – when, in 1997, he delivered the Inaugural Neil Williamson Memorial Lecture. He said of his late friend and colleague: “He conducted many of the most difficult trials of his time, and he did so impeccably…Neil was much more than an outstanding Judge…[he was] an exceptional human being”.)

In November 2017, the Justice Ministry wrote a briefing paper entitled “Establishing a Criminal Cases Review Commission”. In footnote 4, the writer of the briefing paper claims that “[c]ontentious cases like David Bain, Peter Ellis and Rex Haig were referred back to the appeals court as would have occurred if a CCRC had been in force. The existence of a CCRC would not have led to a different outcome”.

Following Rex Haig’s second application for the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, did Colin Carruthers QC complain that Ministry officials "seem to have stepped into the shoes of the Court of Appeal and decided the essential question which is one for the Court of Appeal to decide, and not the Minister"? Please supply me with a copy of Colin Carruthers’ report into the Rex Haig case.

Please contact me if you have any queries regarding this request.

Yours faithfully,

Ross Francis

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From: correspondence, official
Ministry of Justice

Good morning Mr Francis,

Acknowledging receipt of your request for information under the Official Information Act 1982. You can expect a response to your request on or before 3 April 2018.

Kind regards,

Claire O'Connor
Advisor | Official Correspondence
Ministry of Justice | Tāhū o te Ture

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From: correspondence, official
Ministry of Justice

Dear Mr Francis
The Ministry's responses to your requests for information follow your
questions below in italics.
Jeff Orr
Chief Legal Counsel
Ministry of Justice

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