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 Law students help fight miscarriages of justice

March 5, 2015

University of Canterbury law students are involved in a number of legal fights, the university’s Dean of Law, Associate Professor Chris Gallavin says. 

The Canterbury students are helping fight against miscarriages in New Zealand, with the prospect of them making a difference in the community, he says. Associate Professor Gallavin is part of a team established in 2013 to examine public interest cases in both criminal and civil jurisdictions.

“We are very proud that two of our finest students have worked tirelessly on the Teina Pora appeal for the last six months of 2014,” Associate Professor Gallavin says.

“They played a significant role in the defence team completing important research and opinions on aspects of both the law of evidence and criminal procedure. We here at Canterbury are endeavouring to bring real world experiences into the classroom giving academic credit and ultimately a life changing experience to students who are keen and eager to put their education to use as part of their LLB studies.

“Teina Pora was this week a free man after the Privy Council quashed his convictions for the 1992 rape and murder of Auckland woman Susan Burdett. This is a great victory for justice and I hope now that attention will focus on finding out who did kill Susan Burdett. That is very important for the Burdett family and it is important for our community. No one wins in miscarriage cases.”

“The Teina Pora case is not the only case in which Canterbury law students are involved. Our students are also at the centre of the team examining the Mikaere Oketopa (Michael October) case and will be working on the Peter Ellis file and the Tamihere case.

“A team of experts has been formed and it is a privilege and a pleasure for our students to work under the guidance of these experts in uncovering defects in cases that have potentially led to the wrong person being convicted and families of victims receiving little to no closure.

“The team includes barristers, private investigators and scientists and is called the New Zealand Public Interest Project (NZPIP) and in the absence of a criminal cases review panel for New Zealand we are hopeful that we might play a small part in setting the record straight for those unjustly convicted of serious offending.

“We are looking to formally launch NZPIP this year and while we are a little nervous about the number of criminal and civil cases that might be referred to us for review. We are keen to do our best in our little corner,” Associate Professor Gallavin says.