An independent report has found Crown Law did not fail to act sooner on evidence of Alan Hall’s innocence, despite him having to wait in jail for another four years before his wrongful conviction was overturned.
In 2018, journalist Mike Wesley-Smith sent Crown Law new information. It showed a key witness statement was changed, including a statement from the officer in charge.
In 2022, the Supreme Court cleared Hall of the 1985 murder of Arthur Easton and declared a miscarriage of justice. He wrongfully spent 19 years in prison.
In a heavily redacted report, Nicolette Levy KC, found “in the circumstance there was no failure” by Crown Law to take appropriate steps to follow up the information provided by Wesley-Smith.
Levy said those “circumstances” included Crown Law knowing an appeal was in the pipeline, the large amounts of material provided and tight journalistic deadlines. The lawyers handling the media inquiry also had no idea Hall was still in prison.
Wesley-Smith disagreed with the finding.
He told 1News the focus on the deadline is “beside the point” and there was a “duty to correct the miscarriage”.
He said the evidence deserved attention, but no interest was shown.
“What do Crown prosecutors have to do if presented with compelling evidence of innocence? My interpretation of this report is they don’t have to do much at all to correct a miscarriage of justice,” said Wesley-Smith.
Solicitor-General Una Jagose said the report addresses the question of whether Crown Law had information earlier than 2022 that it should have acted on.
“The Levy report considers Crown Law’s legal role, the way we manage media requests, and the fact that we did not have an appeal to respond to or a file for the Hall case at that time,” she said.
“Given this, and the history of the case – Mr Hall had already been to the Court of Appeal, and had been unsuccessful in three applications for the Royal Prerogative of Mercy – Ms Levy does not consider Crown Law was in a position at that point to have seen the miscarriage or taken other action.”
Large sections of the report is redacted because it’s been passed on to the police to investigate Crown Law’s actions further.
Hall’s case is one of New Zealand’s worst miscarriages of justice and he’s expected to get one of the largest ever payouts for compensation.
Geoff Hall said his brother, who is now 61, had been deeply affected by prison.
“He’s trying to put his life together. That’s a slow journey.”
He said he's pleased with the actions taken by Crown Law to review the case.
“Crown Law have been exceptional over the last 18 months. The years before, not so much.”