The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has today handed down its judgment in Pora v The Queen. The appeal, heard over two days in November 2014, is likely to be the final appeal from New Zealand to come before the Judicial Committee, ending a long and distinguished association between the country and the Judicial Committee that began in 1847. New Zealand abolished appeals to the Privy Council at the same time as establishing a domestic Supreme Court in 2004. As part of the transitional arrangements, appeal rights were preserved for those whose first appeals were heard prior to its creation.
The Judicial Committee allowed Mr Pora’s appeal and quashed his convictions for rape and murder, for which he served 22 years in prison before being released on parole last year. Delivering the unanimous judgment of the Board Lord Kerr held that the combination of Mr Pora’s “frequently contradictory and often implausible confessions”, along with the expert evidence now available as to Mr Pora’s mental capacity “led to only one possible conclusion, that the reliance on his confessions gave rise to a risk of a miscarriage of justice”. The Privy Council’s judgment also contains important guidance as to the proper bounds of expert evidence (and in particular as to the status of the ‘ultimate issue’ rule) as well as the phenomenon of false confessions and associated risk of miscarriages of justice.
Malcolm Birdling appeared for the successful Appellant, instructed by Alan Taylor and Co.