Collins on criminal histories: This is a problem
Justice Minister Judith Collins' call for law changes to allow the public better access to criminal histories finds support with a senior Interpol detective.
Tina Bayliss, the mother of a Christchurch teenager murdered by Bayliss' former partner, Jeremy McLaughlin, had no idea he had killed an Australian teenager until after her daughter was found dead.
At the High Court in Christchurch yesterday, Bayliss wept as a jury found McLaughlin, 35, guilty of murder.
McLaughlin also served time in a New Zealand prison in 2005. He was jailed for eight months for burglary.
The part-time doorman and labourer had previously admitted the burglary and arson of the Bayliss home, but denied the murder. He will be sentenced on June 13.
Collins said today that she had a "tremendous amount of sympathy for Tina Bayliss", and law changes were needed to improve the sharing of information between New Zealand and Australia.
"I can't think of anything worse for a mother than to have your child killed, and particularly by someone who at some stage she would have trusted," she said.
"At the moment, the entire sharing of information is very ad hoc, and even if the police in New Zealand do have the information, they also have issues about providing that information to others, given that we also have rules around privacy.
"I think this is a problem and I think we should be doing something about it."
Detective Senior Sergeant Steve Dunn, of Interpol, agreed, saying Australia's privacy laws restricted the amount of information police could obtain about a criminal who came to New Zealand.
''We try to obtain as much as can be shared legally,'' he said.
He said the arrangement was frustrating and he backed Collins' push for change.
''It's a step in the right direction. Law enforcment is more effective when good-quality intelligence is shared in a timely manner.''
Collins believed legislation should be changed so people like Bayliss could be given information about a person's criminal conviction if they approached police.
"My view is very clear ... if matters are in open court I cannot think why we would not make that information available and have it available for anyone to access," she said.
"If you can Google it and find it you should be able to access it."
Collins said she did not believe a jury should be told about a person's criminal history during a trial because it would prejudice their right to a fair trial.
She would seek advice from ministry officials to see how the law could be changed.
However, the exchange of information was made difficult because of different legislation that existed in different states in Australia.
"Innocent people... have obviously had a terrible tragedy happen, and we can do some things to prevent it in the future," she said.
'IF ONLY I HAD KNOWN'
Before her daughter's death, Bayliss felt threatened by McLaughlin's stalkerish behaviour and was given trespass papers days earlier by the police.
She planned to serve them if he came to her home.
But the police were unable to tell her the grim details of the double killer's past because of constraints on what they can reveal about a person's criminal history.
Four days later, Bayliss was at work when McLaughlin showed up again unexpectedly, and her daughter, who was home sick from school, was murdered before the Barrington St, Somerfield, house was torched.
If Bayliss had known McLaughlin was part of a group that killed Perth teenager Phillip Vidot 16 years earlier, she said
she would never have left Jade home alone.
She wants to campaign for better access to information on serious criminals, deported between Australia and New
Zealand, so no other family has to feel the pain and guilt she has.
Phillip's family believe McLaughlin is a "natural-born killer" and support her plans.
After the verdict, suppression orders surrounding McLaughlin's previous manslaughter conviction were lifted.
In a statement, police said Australian immigration authorities told them McLaughlin was being deported back to New Zealand on August 16, 2001. They were made aware of his convictions at that time.
Bayliss said she met McLaughlin through a friend at a Christchurch nightclub.
At first he was "very kind and caring, but very clingy", she said.
"As I got to know him I found him to be very creepy."
After her daughter's death, she was shocked to learn he had killed a teenager in Australia.
McLaughlin had previously told her he had been convicted of a crime overseas "and it was to do with washing down a car".
When she found out what he had done, "I felt sick, because every day I blame myself for what happened to Jade".
Phillip, 14, and friend Tyron Williams attacked by McLaughlin and two other men in Perth in November 1995. Tyron survived but is still suffering brain damage.
McLaughlin was originally charged with murder in connection with the attack, but later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years in jail.
"He hasn't just torn one life apart, he's torn hundreds and hundreds of lives apart," Bayliss said through tears. "It just makes me feel sick inside."
POLICE AWARE OF MOTHER'S CONCERNS
Bayliss said she approached police four days before her daughter's death as she was concerned about McLaughlin's behaviour.
He had turned up unannounced at her home many times after they had split up about a fortnight earlier, she said.
"He's a big guy and I just feared something possibly could happen," she remembered telling police.
She asked them what she could do to stop "it turning into something else" and was given trespass papers she planned to serve against McLaughlin if he turned up at her home.
Detective Inspector Virginia Le Bas last night said she would not comment specifically about the case, but "in general terms, however, there are constraints on what police can disclose to other parties about a person's previous criminal history".
A second person arrested in connection with the case, Jolon Erin Scott Sweeney, 42, earlier admitted charges of being an accessory after the fact by helping McLaughlin to avoid arrest or conviction, knowing that he had committed burglary and arson.
Justice Panckhurst remanded Sweeney on bail for sentence.
- © Fairfax NZ News