Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Pora conviction probe a triumph for crusader

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Teina Pora believed he would get the reward if he confessed.
Teina Pora believed he would get the reward if he confessed.

Well done to Paula Penfold and TV3 for their investigation into Teina Pora's murder conviction.

For those who haven't caught up with the story - and surely there aren't many after all the publicity it has had - Pora confessed to the rape and murder of Susan Burdett in 1992.

He was a teenager at the time and it turns out he believed that if he confessed, he would receive the reward on offer for information leading to a conviction.

You would have thought that on hearing the reason behind his confession, the detectives would have shown him the door, but I guess the police just wanted a result.

A confession is a confession, even when it comes from a young man who was clearly a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.

When DNA tests showed that serial rapist Malcolm Rewa had been responsible for Burdett's assault, a retrial was ordered and Pora was again convicted of murder.

Go figure.

A bid to overturn the conviction in the Court of Appeal was also unsuccessful.

But veteran journalist Paula Penfold has made a very strong case that Pora's murder conviction has been a gross miscarriage of justice and as a result of her campaigning, numerous people and organisations have backed her call for an inquiry into the police handling of the case.

Those supporters include, amazingly, the Police Association and Burdett's brother.

The independent panel that looks into shonky police investigations has finally been nudged into action by Justice Minister Judith Collins, who is ever sensitive to a turning tide.

I haven't sat through a court case on the Pora conviction, but the information I've seen on TV3 certainly makes a good case for Pora's innocence.

His lawyers, who are working pro bono, are taking the case to the Privy Council, probably the last New Zealand case to be heard by that court and it will be up to the law lords to decide whether or not this is one of the worst miscarriages of justice in New Zealand's legal history.

But in the meantime, full marks to Penfold and the team at TV3, and to the NZ Herald writers who looked into this some months ago, for a wonderful piece of good old-fashioned crusading journalism.

- Herald on Sunday

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