4 Mar 2015

Teina Pora 'happiest man' as conviction quashed

9:49 am on 4 March 2015

Teina Pora was the 'happiest man in the country' when he was told the Privy Council had quashed his convictions for rape and murder, his lawyer says.

A screenshot from the livestream of the Privy Council's decision, showing Lord Kerr.

Lord Kerr delivering the Privy Council ruling. Photo: SUPPLIED

Late last night, justices of the Privy Council quashed Mr Pora's convictions for the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett in South Auckland.

Teina Pora.

Teina Pora. Photo: TVNZ / One News

The 39-year-old has twice been convicted of the crimes, and last night's decision means those convictions no longer stand.

Teina Pora was with friends and family as he celebrated news of the decision.

"We were able to tell him a short time before the decision was handed down by the PC (Privy Council) that his convictions had been quashed," lawyer Jonathan Krebs said.

He was intitially speechless but as the news sank in he was "probably the happiest man in the country."

"It was a very emotional moment, very poignant. He was silent for a while as the reality of the situation sunk in and then the smiles began, and we discussed all of the different ramifications."

Ingrid Squire, Jonathan Krebs and Tim McKinnel gather at the Auckland press conference.

Teina Pora's legal team: Ingrid Squire, Jonathan Krebs and investigator Tim McKinnel. Photo: RNZ / Carla Penman

Private investigator Tim McKinnel has worked with Mr Pora's defence team since 2009 and paid tribute to the family of Susan Burdett.

"We're mindful that when we first raised this case and started to work on it the impact that it was likely to have on them and and we've just tried to be as open an honest as possibly could be with them about what we were doing and why we were doing it."

Brother wants answers

Susan Burdett's brother has called the Privy Council's decision the only reasonable outcome.

Jim Burdett said he was "unsurprised" by the findings.

He told Morning Report he still wants answers to who really murdered his sister, and rather than looking at another trial for Teina Pora, energy would be better spent digging deeper.

Read the full Privy Council judgment here

Submissions on third trial

Mr Krebs told Morning Report that while Teina Pora has no restrictions on his liberty for the first time in 22 years he is still in something of a limbo.

"He's not on bail, he's not facing a charge, strictly, he's not on parole; we're just waiting to see whether the Privy Council will order a retrial."

The Privy Council has taken the unusual step of calling for submissions on whether there should be a third trial for Mr Pora. Crown and defence lawyers have four weeks to argue their case.

If after hearing submissions the Privy Council decided there would be no retrial that would be the end of the matter, said Mr Krebs. If the Privy Council decided there should be a retrial, the decision as to whether it takes place still rests with the Solicitor-General.

The Office of the Solicitor-General has said it will consult the police and Susan Burdett's family before deciding whether to argue for a retrial.

If there is no re-trial, the issue of Mr Pora's 22 years in custody and the possibility of seeking compensation will be looked at.

The ruling

The justices upheld the main branch of Teina Pora's appeal after four months of deliberation. They ruled new scientific evidence of a false confession raises the unquestionable risk of a miscarriage of justice.

In the formal decision, the Privy Council noted that much was made at both Mr Pora's trials of his confessions to police.

But the Privy Council received expert evidence from two medical experts, Dr McGinn and Dr Immelman.

Both gave evidence that concluded there was the risk of a miscarriage of justice and explained why Mr Pora's confessions may have been false.

"This is of central and critical importance to one's approach to the question whether his convictions can be regarded as safe.

"The impact that evidence of a confession will have, especially a confession to heinous crime, is difficult to overstate. The natural reaction to such an admission is that it is bound to be true. Why would someone confess to a dreadful crime if they were not guilty of it? But experience has shown that false confessions, even to the most serious of offences, are often made."

The Privy Council concluded: "the combination of Pora's frequently contradictory and often implausible confessions and the recent diagnosis of his FASD [fetal alcohol spectrum disorder] leads to only one possible conclusion and that is that reliance on his confessions gives rise to a risk of a miscarriage of justice.

"On that account, his convictions must be quashed."

More on this story

Timeline of events leading up to last night's decision

A timeline of Teina Pora's case and life

Graphic: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson