Watson v R - [2021] NZCA 542

Date of Judgment

18 October 2021


Watson v R (PDF 199 KB)


Application for bail pending appeal declined. 

The applicant was convicted in September 1999 of the murder of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart in January 1998.  Subsequent appeals and applications for leave to appeal were dismissed by the Court of Appeal and Privy Council.  A first application to the Governor-General for exercise of the prerogative of mercy was declined in July 2013.  In November 2017 the applicant made a second application to the Governor-General.  The application was granted in terms that two reports prepared by a forensic scientist may now raise doubts about the reliability of evidence regarding hairs recovered from the applicant’s yacht that were said to be from Ms Hope.  The applicant now applies for bail pending appeal. 

Criminal practice and procedure — Bail.  Should the application for bail pending appeal be granted? 

Held:  No.  In terms of the considerations under s 14(3) of the Bail Act 2000, the apparent strength of the appeal cannot prospectively be assessed, at this point, as “very strong” or “compelling”.  The reference records that the two reports “may raise doubts about the reliability of an important aspect of the prosecution case”.  A bail application is not an appropriate time to prejudge the merits of an appeal, particularly as the evidence on appeal has not yet been filed and Crown has not yet responded to it.

Moreover, it does not appear that bail is necessary to enable the appeal to be properly advanced.  Other avenues of access and consultation are available.  Other factors advanced do not support the grant of bail either. 

According the application for bail is declined.