Until the age of 54, Hamiltonian John Slavich was arguably what helped make New Zealand great. A successful accountant with a comfortable lifestyle due to a life of uninterrupted toil and a growing family that shared his values. He was an exemplary citizen with no police file, holding every belief in the system. Life was good and in his own hands; so he thought.
At the time, Mr Slavich had never been a litigant in court.
What a difference a few years make.
Today, Mr Slavich is a convicted criminal, was declared a vexatious litigant by the New Zealand High Court in early 2013 for lodging an excessive number of “hopeless” cases, his marriage dissolved and his health has suffered. The catalyst was his tainted conviction for fraud, having been caught up in the large-scale police investigation “Operation Allsorts” which targeted investors and their associates who were hydraulicing property valuations to obtain inflated bank mortgages.
Life is often unfair. But we get on with the hand that is dealt us. Slavich being wrongly charged in 2005 did not concern the NZ populace and, at the time, it did not concern Slavich. Slavich had agreed to a judge-alone trial on the premise a Judge would not ignore all the witness briefs in favour of evidence from the chief witness against him, a recidivist conman with over 600 criminal fraud convictions (the kind you never read about in New Zealand because they get name suppression from judges).
Nonetheless, Slavich was found guilty by Justice Paul Heath, in part on fabricated evidence. From accounts, Slavich and John Haig QC were gobsmacked; Heath’s judgment relied upon a witness who had exonerated Slavich. A subsequent check of the court record found that witness transcript and brief (the witness was deposed, too sick to attend the trial) had been surreptitiously switched by the prosecution, resulting in material evidence being altered.
The government-subsidised (aka “mainstream”) media in New Zealand rarely if ever reports on this common phenomenon in little New Zealand. Not helping: Most of the wrongly convicted fade away, often mortally wounded, never to be heard from. Occasionally a flickering star appears, as when Vince Clayton won the right late last year – still unreported by the mainstream – to civilly sue Crown Prosecutor Philipa Currie for prosecutorial misconduct in “Operation-Rhino”, another multi-million dollar Crown witch hunt desperate to get its money’s worth. Currie had offered an inducement to a criminally-convicted witness to give evidence against Clayton and then notified defence counsel and the Court that no inducement had been offered. The upshot was Clayton was one of at least two innocent men wrongly-convicted.
In refusing to allow Currie’s application to strike out Clayton’s claim, the Court of Appeal was disturbed more by Currie telling the trial judge the document which was on counsels’ table before her did not exist, less about the injustice to the innocent. Because Currie is a product of her professional environment and also knows where judicial skeletons are closeted, those in the know are in little doubt the trial will cost Clayton a lot of money, remain off the public radar and eventually be buried in a secret court file.
In Slavich’s case, the ‘old-boy’ corruption is more deeply rooted. Deputy Solicitors General Cheryl Gwyn, Matthew Palmer and Cameron Mander were determined to be directly culpable in the prosecutorial misconduct of Prosecutor Ross Doulch at trial. Mander has since been appointed a High Court Judge and Gwyn to Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. Slavich’s conviction would not be overturned without embarrassing the highest legal officers in New Zealand – and this included trial Judge Heath who had relied upon the false Crown witness brief. John Haig QC, God rest his soul, would not live to see it, but he dutifully warned Slavich an appeal against a judge accepting false evidence of the Crown Prosecutor and Solicitor General’s office was doomed to fail in the Supreme Court. The appeal affidavit proving the Crown evidence deception had been completely evaded by the New Zealand Court of Appeal.
And the Crown wanted this conviction; they needed this conviction. In ‘A Few Good Men’ terms, Crown Law were the wall that protected every New Zealander from the threat to our collective freedom. Bending due process rules to convict a criminal was considered a good thing. Admitting a fish caught in their expensive police dragnet was unjustly entangled could jeopardise other prosecutions. If the Crewe murders taught us anything it is that there are lengthy government mechanisms, spanning generations if necessary, to confirm police planting evidence is okay to ignore.
Slavich did not believe appeal would fail on such a spurious basis, so deep-rooted was his faith. The evidence was clear even if Slavich’s ability to explain it was not. As with many in his predicament, he repeatedly and vociferously swore corruption at those involved and was driven almost crazy by the systemic injustice which seemed to block every court door. The more Slavich tried, the more convoluted his quest for personal justice became. He filed countless petitions, with allegations of judicial obfuscation snowballing in the progression of pleadings.
Although he seven times succeeded in obtaining District Court approval to commence private prosecutions against Doulch, Gwyn, Palmer and Mander – each resulting in the Solicitor-General exercising executive power under s 159 of the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 to stay the prosecutions – none of Slavich’s many civil applications succeeded. Those judgments are unanimous in claiming Mr Slavich’s attempts were all hopeless, if not an outright abuse of court process.
This begs the question why the Supreme Court has been sitting on two of Slavich’s applications to appeal since October 2012. Simple logic holds the New Zealand Supreme Court would not miss an opportunity to give his persistence and character a whack – if not take delight in doing so. To the contrary, the Supreme Court continues to sit on these formal applications, coming up on three years!
Mr Slavich provided kiwisfirst two responses he received more than a year ago from then-Minister of the Courts Chester Burrows over concerns the Supreme Court was obstructing his applications through delay. Mr Burrows’ first response advised his finding that the applications had already been decided by the Court. The second response, two months later, admits further investigation determined “these applications are all currently before the (Supreme) Court and will be dealt with in due course. I note that you have been waiting some time for these applications to be heard. As a general rule, I do not consider it appropriate that there are unacceptable delays in the justice system. The Ministry of Justice is working to reduce the amount of time taken for a case to progress through the court system.”
That was in May 2014.
The only development in the past 15 months was an attempt by Slavich to file yet another application in the Auckland High Court claiming his lawful rights have been effectively denied by the Supreme Court’s failure to address his applications filed in 2012. This latest claim was not allowed to be filed in the High Court due to the Court’s earlier declaration that Slavich was a vexatious litigant – all the while the New Zealand Supreme Court seems befuddled on what to do with Slavich circa 2012.
The one constant in all of this is no NZ connected media person will report these facts. If any had an inclination before, dismissal of John Campbell from TV3 this year for reporting much less ensures no one will.