Well done to the government. It’s established a long overdue Commission to review suspected wrongful convictions, something we could have usefully had decades ago.
Chairing it is Colin Carruthers QC and with him on the Commission two enlightened choice advisory group members, specifically Christchurch QC Nigel Hampton and former detective Tim McKinnel. Tim resigned from the police over their failure to take up the wrongful imprisonment, which they were aware of, of Teina Pora.
There’s another four commissioners who frankly by dint of their respective positions reek of tokenism, but no matter, the sensitivity of these issues is best done by a group rather than a single individual to avoid suggestions of prejudice or misjudgement.
Carruthers is well known as a QC and a wine-grower. What’s not known about him, excepting to his intimates, is that he was once a renown and highly respected Moldovian poetry authority. If a somewhat esoteric interest, nevertheless his scholarship in this field brought upon his head an extraordinary series of events back in the early 1980s. What happened was this.
Colin wrote a searing revisionist essay about the early 19th Century Moldovan poet Alexandru Robot which was duly published in a French literary journal. All hell then broke out in Eastern Europe, traditionalists not taking kindly to this adverse critique from an outsider. Things then got completely out of hand when he received death threats resulting in him being pursued by a Romanian hitman and having to hide out in a Georgian monastery for 6 months, before making his way back home to concentrate on his legal career.
It’s an amazing tale which I tried to persuade his wife Deborah Coddington to write about. “Colin likes to hide his light under a bushel,” she said, aside from which, she added, she didn’t want to incite further rage from the inflamed Moldavan literati set.
Fair enough, but a pity nonetheless. It’s certainly not a CV many of our conventionally staid QCs can match.