Sounds murders: Court backs plan for meeting between Gerard Hope and Scott Watson

Corrections told to reconsider ruling on Scott Watson, journalist and victim’s father.
Scott Watson has exhausted all avenues of appeal and was denied a royal pardon. Picture / The Press
Scott Watson has exhausted all avenues of appeal and was denied a royal pardon. Picture / The Press

A meeting between a father and the man who murdered his daughter is one step closer to happening.

Corrections has been ordered to reconsider its decision not to allow journalist Mike White to report on the first-ever meeting between Gerard Hope and Scott Watson.

Watson was convicted of the 1998 murders of Hope's daughter Olivia, 17, and 21-year-old Ben Smart. The pair were last seen boarding a yacht moored in Endeavour Inlet off Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds on New Year's Day 1998. Their bodies have never been found.

Both Watson and Hope have sought to have White present at a meeting between the pair, where Hope wants to question Watson about the murders.

But Corrections opposed White attending as a journalist three times, most recently in March when a letter advised White could only be present as a facilitator if he gave an undertaking not to use any information he received for professional purposes.

"There is no suggestion the proposed presence of White is necessary to discuss new information which has come to light or the discovery of new evidence," it said.

In a High Court judgment released yesterday, Justice Jillian Mallon acknowledged the meeting was unusual and likely to be tense, with the potential for misunderstandings to arise and participants to inaccurately recall what was said.

"The right to freedom of speech has a high value in this particular instance," Mallon said.

"Corrections' reasons do not demonstrate that the interference with freedom of expression is justified."

She said there was no reason Watson's lawyers could not put forward to Corrections conditions under which the meeting would take place, and ordered costs be paid to Watson.

Watson, who has maintained his innocence saying he never met or even laid eyes on the pair, was sentenced to life with a minimum 17-year non-parole period. He was denied parole on his first application after being assessed as "a very high risk of future reoffending".

He has exhausted all avenues of appeal and was denied a royal pardon by the Governor-General in 2013.

- AAP

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