Evidence of fraud matters. This is the belief brothers Robb (pictured) and Paul Currie still cling to notwithstanding the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court each finding reasons to ignore evidence the New Zealand Police had materially altered evidence in the 2010 prosecution and conviction of Paul for allegedly blackmailing a prominent [profession suppressed by court ruling].
The case provides a glimpse, if not a microcosm, of how powerful people and Crown agencies are protected from their own criminal acts by complicit NZ judges.
As background, a person we will call Mr “Z” represented Paul Currie in a legal matter. The relationship soured and, through a business negotiator, Paul submitted a “claim for recompense” to Z in the amount of $351,886 for alleged negligence. Z turned the claim over to his professional indemnifiers and negotiations ensued. The negotiator reported back that Z was amenable to paying a settlement.
Weeks later, Z was informed by his insurers that coverage had lapsed due to non-payment of premiums. Z then took the matter to police alleging he was being blackmailed by Currie and the negotiator. The Curries have long alleged this was a tactical move by Z, most probably because he personally did not have the money.
After depositions, the District Court discharged the prosecution due to insufficient evidence. By this date, mid-2008, the Currie brothers had quite an evidential file of what they described as fraud and perjury by Z and the Police.
Like much of the Court’s inner-workings, facts and motives soon thereafter became blurred. What is clear is that Paul was recharged by the Police with the same offence two months later, allegedly on the same evidence. However, in the interim, the content of several police documents changed. Police apparently had forgotten that Currie already had copies of some documents. Shortly afterward, Z – not the police – phoned Paul’s lawyer to state the charges would be dropped if Paul paid him $20,000.
The negotiator’s lawyer extricated his client from the legal melee. Now short of funds, Paul found himself represented by an appointed lawyer who was apparently so alarmed by Z’s powerful connections and the altered police evidence that he made a career choice of not challenging either. Paul was convicted and sentenced to 350 hours community service by High Court Justice Graham Lang.
Disgusted by their counsel, the Currie brothers took the appeal to the Court of Appeal themselves, where a Fairfax reporter in attendance reported the thrust of their appeal aimed at the evidence of fraud and perjury by Z and the police.
In a December 2011 reserved judgment which was suppressed from publication (CA690/2010), the Court of Appeal dismissed the evidence of fraud and perjury on the grounds it had not been provided in the proper affidavit form. This was not entirely true. An affidavit from Currie’s former solicitor supporting the allegations against Z was before the court. In addition, Currie had submitted an opinion from a handwriting expert, conflicting invoices for ten of thousands of dollars and two police versions of the same document used to support the conviction. Nonetheless, Justice Judy Potter called the allegations of fraud “fanciful”.
The brother’s request for the Court of Appeal transcript which they expressly asserted would demonstrate Potter J’s claim could not genuinely be held in light of what had been presented was denied.
There are fundamental doctrines in law requiring judges be proactive in protecting courts from abuses of process and that proof of fraud is not only the worst abuse of court processes but it also unravels everything. Potter J’s refusal to consider the evidence of fraud on form and then dismissing it as fanciful was a cunning reflection of this recognition. It would set the brothers up for failure at the Supreme Court.
At the Supreme Court, each brother produced evidence of the alleged fraud by Z and the police, this time in proper form. The Supreme Court was undeterred. In a three-page judgment dismissing leave to appeal, the Court relied on the very same evidence challenged as fraudulent when stating “The content of the claim document and alleged threats to ‘forward the matter to others for consideration’ gave rise to the charge and eventual conviction (of Mr Currie)” before concluding “No issue of principle is raised by the material that has been submitted by the applicant that meets the criteria for an appeal to this Court under the Supreme Court Act 2003.”
The flaunting disingenuousness of the Supreme Court’s ruling went beyond its reliance upon a document both brothers had sworn evidence was fraudulent. The ruling spun the evidence of fraud into a credibility question beyond the scope of a Supreme Court challenge by declaring “This Court is not the appropriate forum for an appeal that involves an assessment of the credibility of the key witness against the evidence he and others gave at trial” before giving undeserved credit in declaring “The Court of Appeal has already undertaken that exercise.”
That the Court of Appeal failed in this exercise is of course hidden by the suppression order. The Supreme Court knew it could afford to give undeserved credit.
Finally, anyone who has observed the New Zealand Supreme Court would be aware of the Court’s tendency to nullify statute and “claim inherent and pretended powers” when it gets the urge to “protect judicial independence”. Those of us who do may find it perversely humorous that our highest judges felt no such independence when it came to evidence a fraud has been perpetrated on their Courts by a favoured son.
They claimed utter helplessness to address any miscarriage of justice resulting from the evidence of fraud put to them by the Curries, stating “This Court will be in no position to say that a substantial miscarriage of justice has occurred in the absence of an investigation of a kind which the Court does not undertake.” Because the ruling sounds so open-minded to correcting a miscarraige fo justice, the unwitting reader can be forgiven for not knowing what the judges surely knew: that any investigation ended with their Supreme Court dismissal.