1/03/2007

FINALLY, THE DIRTY TRUTH...UNSUPPRESSED

All the news websites are leading right now with the news of the not-quilty verdicts in the sexual assault and kidnapping case against deputy police commissioner Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton.

The not-guilty verdicts were widely expected, there were too many inconsistencies in the alleged victim's version of events, just as in the Lousie Nicholas case where the three men were cleared of 20 charges, including rape.

But finally, the media is allowed to reveal the most sensational detail of the trial - that Shipton and Schollum were on trial while serving long stretches in prison for rape.

As the Herald reported:

"Suppression orders related to a previous conviction for Schollum and Shipton were lifted.
They were convicted in 2005 of the rape of a woman in Mt Maunganui 16 years earlier and are currently serving jail sentences of eight years and eight-and-a half years respectively."

During the Nicholls trial I spoke to several reporters covering the proceedings who felt very uncomfortable writing long and detailed stories about the case while having to exclude the fact that two of the three accused were already in prison for a very similar crime. It lent a bizarre tone to much of the coverage, with hints at the underlying truth.

Some members of the public flouted the law and distrubuted flyers or posted online, the suppressed information. They were threatened with prosecution for contempt of court.

Now the truth can be raked over in the Sunday papers. Shipton and Schollum may have shed tears of relief as they left court but it's surely a hollow victory for the convicted rapists. They've been judged innocent, but they'll forever be judged differently in the court of public opinion.

What ther jury never knew (NZ Herald report)

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