The Crown is to be investigated for the role it played in a miscarriage of justice that put an innocent man in prison for 19 years. It took almost four decades for his name to be cleared.
It was announced today that Solicitor-General Una Jagose has opened an investigation into the Crown's role in the case surrounding Alan Hall's now quashed murder conviction.
Hall, 60, was convicted of the 1985 murder of Papakura man Arthur Easton and the wounding of Easton's son by jury trial in 1986, and spent a total 19 years behind bars for a crime he never committed.
Yesterday, after 36 years, Hall walked away from the Supreme Court of New Zealand with a clean slate.
The Crown admitted there was a severe miscarriage of justice in Hall's case, and evidence used at trial to convict Hall was "materially altered", with key details omitted.
The five presiding justices, including Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann, agreed and quashed Hall's conviction on the spot.
Justice Winkelmann said the justice system had failed Hall, and so too it had failed the Easton family.
"So for this reason, the appeal is allowed. Mr Hall's convictions are quashed and the court will make an order that the verdict acquittal be entered," Justice Winkelmann said.
Jagose said there was a significant miscarriage of justice for Hall, and she took that fact seriously.
"I am determined to find out why and how Mr Hall, Mr Easton, and both their families have been so severely let down by the justice system.
"My focus now is on understanding how the Crown's role in this miscarriage occurred and why the criminal justice system failed to remedy it earlier."
New Zealanders must have trust and confidence in the justice system, Jagose said, which is why she considers an investigation into the conduct of the prosecution so important.
"Plainly, as the Crown's submission to the Supreme Court acknowledges, the criminal justice system has failed in this case," Jagose said.
"Mr Hall, Mr Easton's family, and the public need to understand the factors that led to this miscarriage.
"Accordingly, I have commenced an independent investigation, to be led by Wellington criminal barrister Nicolette Levy QC, into these events."
Geoff Hall, family spokesperson and brother of Alan, said yesterday's result was a good day for the truth.
"Yesterday in the Supreme Court, police misconduct, lies, and deception took a royal beating from the truth, honesty and integrity."
He welcomed news of an investigation being launched.
"We need the Crown to be held accountable for misconduct, and the only way to do that is an independent inquiry.
"The family needs this to carry on to ensure that we do our part for the country in protecting other individuals like Alan who are vulnerable and have become victims themselves of the justice system."
Alan Hall told Open Justice he was pleased the Crown was taking what happened to him seriously, but "the words I'll want to say you can't print".
Private Investigator Tim McKinnel, who has worked closely with the Hall family, said it was a promising start, but the investigation was only just the beginning.
"It's encouraging to see the Solicitor-General is prepared to scrutinise their own people and their part of the (justice) system," McKinnel said.
According to McKinnel there was a range of questions about what has happened in Hall's case that will go far beyond the scope of this inquiry.
"Alan's case is one in an ongoing list of cases where there are substantial issues that we are starting to see time and time again," McKinnel said.
"Particularly around police interviewing, non-disclosure of evidence helpful to the defence, and those types of issues which are well-known risk factors for wrongful conviction."
McKinnel hopes the investigation will be a timely reminder that the rules around disclosure and interviewing vulnerable people exist for a reason.
"They are not there as impediments to convict the right people. They are there to protect the vulnerable, the weak and the innocent."
In Hall's case, there was systemic abuse of power, McKinnel said, and it will be a fresh example helpful for people who have had the same thing happen to them.
"I guess Alan's case helps build on the evidence base for the types of issues that are emerging in wrongful conviction cases in New Zealand."