Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Mike Butler: Prosecutorial sin and Titford

Publicity about prosecutorial wrongdoing in the Alan Hall miscarriage of justice is an opportunity to look at what happened in the trial of Allan Titford. I wrote two books about Titford’s situation, about when he was forced off his Northland farm by tribal activists, and when he was tried on 53 charges. (1)

Alan Hall, who was convicted in 1986 of murdering Arthur Easton, spent 19 years in jail.

The conviction was quashed last June after a four-years of work by investigator Tim McKinnel and an appeal to the Supreme Court. (2)

Allan Titford, who was convicted in 2013 on 39 counts that included three of allegedly raping his wife, is 10 years into a 24-year jail term.

The Appeal Court rejected his appeal in 2017 and the Supreme Court refused to listen to his case in 2019.

The evidence of miscarriage of justice in Hall’s case includes a crucial witness’s statement being altered, other vital witness statements that pointed away from Hall being concealed, and unfair questioning by police of Hall, who has an intellectual disability. (3)

The evidence of a miscarriage of justice in Titford’s case is that crucial evidence to do with the rape charges was not presented to the court. The charges were presented as representing numerous violent incidents over time. There was no evidence other than the complainant’s testimony.

At the time of the trial, the complainant was fighting a relationship property battle with the accused.

The complainant’s first statement to police mentioned only one rape and that allegedly took place 22 years earlier. Another rape that allegedly happened about a month before she made that statement was not mentioned at that time. A further rape had appeared by the time the case went to trial.

Here is where it gets a bit complicated. This will not be difficult for readers who belong to the legal brotherhood.

The law says a charge may be representative "if multiple offences of the same type are alleged to have been committed in similar circumstances and the offences are committed over a period of time, and the nature and circumstances of the offences make it unreasonable for the complainant to particularise dates or other details of the offences, or, if it is likely that the same plea would be entered by the defendant to all offences if charged separately".

For instance, in a fraud trial, if a particular fraud had been committed 10,000 times it would be unreasonable to test 10,000 separate charges in a court. Therefore, a single charge representing those 10,000 alleged incidents would be presented.

But Titford’s ex-wife referred in cross-examination to "the three times he raped me" as well as asserting numerous rapes.

If there were just three rapes, as the ex-wife said, there would be no basis for a representative charge.

If there were numerous rapes, as the ex-wife also said, no evidence was presented to show numerous other incidents and that it was unreasonable to "particularise dates or other details".

The evidence presented by the Crown on the rapes is contradictory, and raises a reasonable doubt over whether the rapes occurred as the Crown alleged.

Two of the three rape verdicts were majority verdicts. Not all jurors were convinced.

The ex-wife also alleged that Titford punched her during the alleged rapes.

This added violence to the mix which qualified Titford to at least a band-three rape conviction of multiple rapes with violence over time which leads to a jail term of 12 to 18 years in prison.

The starting point for Titford’s jail term on the rape counts was 16 years.

Jail time for the other convictions being threat to kill x 3, assault with weapon x 19, assault x 8, discharge a firearm x 1, insurance fraud x 1, arson x 1, attempted arson x 1, perjury x 1, and an attempt to pervert the course of justice were stacked on top of around 16 years for rape to create the 24-year term.

Back to Alan Hall, five reviews of his case were launched after his conviction was quashed, bringing the possibility that those responsible for the wrongful conviction could face criminal charges.

Titford’s case is under review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission where the cases are many and the progress slow. My question is whether prosecutorial wrongdoing could be found in his case as well.

By the way, there are substantial issues with all of the other allegations against Titford.

Both appeals argued that the 53-charge trial should have been divided into several trials which would enable a more robust examination of each charge.

As it was, the trial quickly became confusing. Charges were referred to as numbers rather than events (in other words, there were 53 numbers to keep track of).

Both Titford and his partner said they had difficulty keeping track of which testimony related to which charge, especially in the charges related to the children, as two counsels attached questions to numbers while a long procession of Crown witnesses sat in the witness box and responded.

Laying three rape charges when only one rape was alleged in the ex-wife’s original statement to police, the fact that the rape allegedly occurred 22 years before the complaint was made, plus the addition of the “representative” descriptor to one rape charge, raises the possibility that Crown prosecutor intended the longest possible sentence should Titford be convicted.

A shambolic trial, that included numerous statements from members of the ex-wife’s family depicting Titford as a monster and her as an innocent victim, hastened guilty verdicts.

Most only get to see what goes on in trial when we do jury duty. Perhaps being in the dock is the only way to experience how rickety our justice system actually is.

1.24 Years – the trials of Allan Titford. and Innocent Nil Debit
2. Police to investigate charging
3. It should never have happened.


Anonymous said...

Don't know enough about the case, but it does appear, prima facie, to be somewhat suspect. But whatever went on there, it pales into insignificance to the injustice done to Scott Watson. Meantime, he waits, and waits, and waits, and waits... It's a disgrace!

Doug Longmire said...

Can I add to this:-
Scott WatsonMark Lundy
Arthur Allan Thomas
Tina Pora
etc, etc..

Doug Longmire said...

Yes - that is absolutely outrageous Mike.
I was shocked to read the words "majority verdict".
I thought that, under New Zealand law, the jury had to be unanimous to provide a guilty verdict.
Truly - our justice system is a train wreck !!

John W said...

You think he is innocent of all charges? Where there's smoke there's fire!

robert Arthur said...

Titford committed the now heinous "offence" of questioning local maori and his troubles developed from that. At the time the power of cancellation had yet to be fully established.