Teina Pora gets Privy Council appeal
Convicted rapist and murderer Teina Pora has been granted leave to appeal his convictions.
The Privy Council has confirmed Pora is to appeal his 1994 conviction for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett in her South Auckland home.
Pora's case will be heard over three days in London later this year, according to the Privy Council decision released yesterday.
Pora's lawyers filed an application for the appeal with the Privy Council in August.
Jonathan Krebs, the lead counsel for Pora's defence team, said Pora was delighted by the news.
"It took a second or two to hit him then he broke out in a big beautiful smile, Krebs said this morning.
Pora was a "a humble, quiet" man, contrary to what some people may think, he said.
"It's just fantastic. It's been a long time coming," Krebs said.
"We have always been hopeful but you start to wonder when it takes so long."
He expected the hearing to be held in October.
Burdett, 39, was found bludgeoned to death in her Papatoetoe home in 1992.
Pora was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994, and in 2000, after the Court of Appeal ordered a second trial, he was found guilty again.
He has spent 20 years in jail.
Pora's lawyer has maintained there was no direct evidence that linked his client to the scene, and that he was convicted largely because of a false confession.
Concerns have since been raised about the conviction, and the Police Association last year called for a review of the conviction citing "sufficient concern among some senior detectives to warrant an inquiry".
Prime Minister John Key said the Privy Council decision showed the strength of the justice system.
"Somebody who believes there's been a miscarriage of justice can continue to test their rights and this is a very historical case, it's complex."
Key said some "interesting things" had been raised.
"But all I can say is everybody has the right to continue to test whether they are innocent or guilty.
"If they believe they are innocent they can put up a genuine case which is certainly the situation here where the Privy Council has given leave for Teina Pora to take his case back, and let's see what the Privy Council says."
Justice Minister Judith Collins said the decision showed the justice system was working.
"What it shows is the matter is still before the courts and the system actually works very well," she said.
"The decision from the Privy Council is simply that Mr Pora has been granted leave to appeal and so we now will go through the process and see what the decision is from that."
She said she could "not possibly" comment on why the Privy Council made its decision.
"I think it suggests that the Privy Council has found enough for them to be interested in looking further and that's quite a right thing to do if that's what they decide."
Pora did have an application in with the minister to consider granting a pardon.
A spokeperson from Collins' office said that application had been placed on hold at the request of Pora's lawyers, while they pursued a Privy Council hearing.
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the Privy Council decision was "good news" for Pora.
"We are so happy for Teina," he said.
"It's been over 20 years since he was convicted of the rape and murder of Susan Burdett, and with all the question marks over the original handling of the investigation it's a huge relief that he will have his case heard again.
"There has been significant doubt cast over the actions of police in their original investigation, so much so, that last year the Maori Party called on every possible avenue available to seek justice for this young man, including looking at the option of a royal prerogative of mercy."
Flavell said the party still wanted to see an investigation into the handling of the case.
WHY THE PRIVY COUNCIL?
Pora will be one of the last New Zealand cases eligible to appeal to the judicial committee of the Privy Council.
The Supreme Court came into being on January 1, 2004 as New Zealand abolished the right of appeal to the London-based Privy Council.
Certain appeals can continue to be determined by the Privy Council, if the New Zealand court decision was made before December 31, 2003.