No mercy for Watson

Judith Collins has announced:

Justice Minister Judith Collins today announced the Governor-General has declined ’s application for exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy.

“After thorough consideration of all the relevant material, I advised the Governor-General that Mr Watson’s application be declined,” Ms Collins says.

Mr Watson was convicted of murdering Ben Smart and Olivia Hope who were last seen boarding a yacht in Endeavour Inlet, in the Marlborough Sounds, in the early hours of 1 January 1998.

Following unsuccessful appeals to the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council claiming his innocence, Mr Watson applied to the Governor-General for exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy.

“In 2009 the Ministry of Justice engaged Kristy McDonald QC to provide advice on Mr Watson’s application,” Ms Collins says.

Ms McDonald considered not only Mr Watson’s original application, but also additional material that was provided by Mr Watson and his legal team between the submission of his original application and December 2012.

In 2011 Ms McDonald provided a report on the key issues raised by Mr Watson’s application and in March 2013, she provided a further report responding to matters raised by Mr Watson’s lawyers from her original report.

Ms McDonald concluded that nothing provided in support of Mr Watson’s application created a real risk that Mr Watson was wrongfully convicted.

I’ve read several books on the murder of Ben and Olivia, and I think Watson was the killer – so am pleased with this decision.

The Q+A notes:

A main ground of Mr Watson’s application was his submission that two key Crown witnesses (Guy Wallace, a water taxi driver, and Roslyn McNeilly, bar manager) hadmade statements changing their trial evidence relating to the identification of Mr Watson.

Ms McDonald considered the information provided by Mr Watson in support of this submission, as well as interviewing both witnesses. She advised that the information provided by Ms McNeilly and Mr Wallace in support of Mr Watson’s application was not “fresh”. It would not have added significantly to the identification evidence both witnesses gave at trial, and had to be viewed in the context of the other trial evidence, including the DNA evidence which suggested that two hairs found on Mr Watson’s boat came from Ms Hope.

Watson was convicted in 1999. His non-parole period is until July 2016. That doesn’t mean he will be released at that stage – just that he can be.

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