A guest post by regular commentator Flipper:
The Fisher “expose” piece in relation to the Crewe, Thomas, and Hutton saga, in this morning’s Herald, has one element of truth of which Fisher is unaware – that relating to inside information given to Muldoon. But, importantly, that revelation adds to, and supports what Flipper was told (by an impeccable Royal Commission source, of which more later) at the time. Much of what follows has been previously published in other Kiwiblog threads. But today we have something new – a something that fills an empty jigsaw space.
Fisher quotes A A Thomas’ brother, Des, claiming today that Muldoon had received a detailed deathbed confession from one of Hutton’s conspirators. This is in relation to the content of a letter strongly advising against any pardon on the grounds that one would be to make a mockery of our system of justice
“…. Mr Thomas would not comment but his brother Des, who has spoken for the family, said there was a strong case to be made that Sir Robert had inside knowledge. He said there was evidence Len Johnston, one of the detectives implicated in the planting of evidence, had confessed on his deathbed in the late 1970s. The story – ruled out as true by the police review – saw the confession to his vicar passed to a bishop, who passed it to Sir Robert.”
Des Thomas said the story was credible despite police dismissing it because it explained why Sir Robert appointed Anglican Archbishop the Most Rev Allen Johnston as one of the royal commissioners.
That conclusion is supported by several things:
• The Solicitor General, Richard Savage, and Crown Law, did not appear at the Royal Commission, and it appears that they were instructed to remove themselves from involvement;
• The Crown prosecutor, Morris, had his own, personal, legal representation
• According to one of the Commissioners, Rt Hon Peter Gordon (aka “Hiss and Roar”), former Archbishop Johnston personally penned the words used in their report to condemn Hutton.
Then Solicitor General, Richard Savage, in a letter to Rob Muldoon….” said [Muldoon was Rt Hon “, not “Sir” then] could do nothing, he could refer the case with its report back to the Court of Appeal, or he could grant a pardon. He (Savage) told the Prime Minister: “I feel to pardon or release Thomas on the basis of this report would be to make a mockery of our system of justice. He said there was “nothing new” in the two reports which had not been before the courts.
Mr Savage said …. “To substitute his (Adams-Smith) opinion … for that of the juries and the courts would in my opinion be quite wrong.” He said Sir Robert’s other options were to refer it to the courts, which would allow the Government to base further action on a court decision and “not that of one man who, of necessity, could not hear the opposing points of view argued”.
He said the most “justified” response would be to take no action. He also suggested Sir Robert publicly announce it would be up to Mr Thomas to take the reports to the Governor-General to ask for a pardon.
Mr Savage’s opinion for Sir Robert was dated December 10, 1979.
“Exactly one week later Mr Thomas was pardoned. He was paid $950,000 compensation. The subsequent royal commission of inquiry into the conviction found that Mr Thomas should never have been arrested. [Fisher, as with much of what he writes, is wrong, The compensation was agreed later, following a separate RC hearing on that matter – Report of the Royal Commission ToR 6 – Paras 474 – 513]
“What did Muldoon know in order to get Adams-Smith to do the report? Did Len Johnston confess on his deathbed?”
As some will be aware, Flipper has previously posted details in relation to the internal manoeuvring of the Thomas Royal Commission. I know some of the inside, publicly undisclosed detail, from luncheon and dinner table conversations with more than one of the actual participants.
Let me state at the outset that the efforts of Booth, Sprott, Yallop, et al kept the issue in front of the public at a time when the judiciary had closed ranks and walked away. The inquiry by Adams-Smith was at the direction of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, and was made over the objections of Crown Law, Crown Prosecutors, and Police.
But it was the senile former Justice McGregor whose door step dismissal of Muldoon that sealed the fate of the Thomas conspiracy. When the man previously tasked with reviewing all evidence in the Thomas case, looked at Muldoon and said he did not know who he was, it became clear to RDM that McGregor had simply done “the decent thing” for his judicial brethren — at the cost of the continued incarceration of an innocent man.
[There is a real similarity to what Savage’s wrote in defence of his legal brethren – no doubt with one eye on a Judicial appointment]
The first Adams-Smith report was widely published with only one section (then still under investigation) being redacted. The second resulted in a conversation between Muldoon and McLay. (Then Savage’s letter hit RDM’s desk) The latter (McLay) was instructed not to involve Crown Law or the Police prior to Cabinet discussion and decision. Muldoon took his recommendation to The Cabinet, had it endorsed, and instructed McLay to attend to the paper work. It was done, almost that quickly, and the Police first learned of the pardon from news media.
The Royal Commission faced an initial legal challenge (I will be kind and call it “clarification request”) from the CL/Police establishment on the meaning of a free pardon – a clarification that served to aid Thomas as time went by. The Royal Commission (Taylor, Gordon & Johnston) was faced with obfuscation, lies, and half-truths (a reminder that Fisher [former HC Judge and QC), not the Herald’s Fisher] had a piece of that), but they saw through them all. And, as I have previously commented in other threads, the former Archbishop Johnston was the original author of the words condemning Hutton. He would have gone further and linked Morris, but as one of the Commissioners (Peter Gordon) told me, “We could not link all the dots.” Morris , having been told that Crown Law had received instructions not to become involved, appointed his personal legal counsel to protect his interests.
The judicial pin-head dancing is all very well, and may, of course, be important.
But the judiciary does NOT exist to protect only the State or the Crown. It exists, does it not, to oversee the just administration/enforcement of New Zealand law? Recent events in relation to at least three other high profile cases suggest that nothing has changed. If Adams does take her new responsibilities seriously, she will move to adopt the Law Commission’s recommendation on the establishment of a Criminal Cases Review Commission – Stet.