Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Edwards case: the sentencing

Edwards was sent down today for nine years with half of his sentence to be served before he becomes eligible for parole. Although the Solicitor General could appeal to have the sentence increased, the sentence is at the heavier range for manslaughter sentences although significantly below the normal minimum for murder (which was life with a non-parole period of ten years).

Since Edwards was sentenced, the police were now able to comment about the case and several details that had been revealed - namely that Edwards had been convicted of taking McNee's car a few years ago and that Edwards was involved in an attack at Morningside that went unprosecuted. The main points are:

1) The case was handled appropriately and free of third-party influence.

2) There was no evidence that McNee and Edwards knew each other before the night of the killings (this arose because Peters revealed in the house that Edwards had stolen McNee's car a few years ago).

3) They are convinced that offences occurred at Morningside and that the complainant was the victim (kudos to their careful phrasing).

4) Edwards was identified by DNA but the victim decided not to take the matter further.

5) The police, fearful of the victim's safety, questioned Edwards. He refused to talk on the record and so the police questioned him without a caution (making any statements inadmissable in court). As a result of this, Edwards admitted being there but his statement was at variance with the complainant's complaint. In what way the police won't say but in light of the McNee killing, it is probable that neither statement was the whole truth.

6) As a result of Edward's confession, the police issued him with a trespass order banning him from the Morningside property.

Now I have had concerns with the police handling of the Morningside incident but I am relieved to say they are alleviated by their statement. It's to clear that the police didn't drop the case after the witness said he wouldn't testify but did their best to push the matter further. Since neither the witness or Edwards would actually say what had happened, the police did not have any idea what really happened then until Edwards was on trial for the McNee killing. Hence their actions while not ideal with hindsight (I've said before that the Parole Board could have been informed) were nevertheless explicable and reasonable.

On a sad note, the wife of the Morningside victim is suing the Herald for defamation on the grounds that they reported Winston Peters statements about the Morningside attack. Although it's not exactly clear what defamatory statements she is suing about (is it the attack itself or the allegation of a coverup?), it seems to me that she is in denial about the circumstances of the attack. I can only hope that her lawyer is wise enough to reach a satisfactory resolution without exposing her further to public humiliation.