Lessons in Wishart retraction
“The essence of detective work is to never allow the evidence to fit the theory of what occurred. Every new piece of evidence should be interrogated and its impact on the reconstruction of the crime evaluated,” Police Association President Greg O’Connor said today.
Mr O’Connor, a qualified detective and detective trainer, was commenting on journalist Ian Wishart’s retraction in a new book of his previous assertion that Scott Watson was innocent of the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.
“Those who have published books and theories about what has become known as the Sounds murders have invariably begun their ‘investigations’ by seeking to prove their theories or reconstructions that Watson was innocent,” he said.
“The reality of a police inquiry is that all known facts are not only gathered, but are evaluated, corroborated where possible and, importantly, tested for their impact on the reconstruction of what occurred. The essence of good detective work is to continually reconstruct until the evidence is exhausted.
“The continual issuing of books and other publications casting aspersions on verdicts by honing in on one aspect of a case and ignoring other evidence is damaging to the public’s faith in the justice system. This is often what individuals accuse police of doing.
“The system is not perfect, and mistakes can be made. However, the checks and balances on police in the modern era, through peer review, Crown oversight, the judicial system (including the appeal process) and the Independent Police Conduct Authority, act as a filter which the plethora of post-verdict books are not subject to.”
Mr O’Connor urged New Zealanders to view any such publications with a healthy dose of scepticism. “They are generally only the views of an individual whose theories on what are often narrow aspects of a case are not subject to any of the scrutiny applied to the Police and Crown cases.”