Crown and police lose legal battle over interrogation technique in Lois Tolley murder case

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Crown lawyers and the police have lost a legal battle to keep a secret the controversial interrogation technique used in the botched prosecution of the Lois Tolley murder case.

The case of three men accused of the murder of Lois Tolley has been unraveled due to lack of evidence.
Photo: Delivered / NZ Police

The method, likened by the Supreme Court judge to “a fireside chat,” was used to coerce a confession from one of three men charged with shooting Tolley at her Upper Hutt home in Dec 2016.

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All charges were dropped after cases against the trio were unraveled separately late last year.

Many details of the case against the men are left behind.

The police had argued that the so-called Complex Investigation Phased Engagement Model should not be made public because of the risk that it could be abused by untrained detectives or suspects could become suspicious.

The media organization stuff has taken legal action, arguing that it was in the public interest to be able to investigate the police action in the case.

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By withdrawing his suppression order, Justice Simon France agreed that there was “legitimate public interest in questioning a specialist interview model that has been misused”.

“Numerous violations of various rules have been identified and it is legitimate to question the correctness of the underlying method.”

In addition, the technique itself deserved public scrutiny, he said.

“It is a method that has the effect of downplaying or arguably obscuring the true nature of what is happening. Mr X was a suspect in a murder who was being questioned because the police had information implicating him.

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“Yet it creates an environment where what appears to be a fireside conversation takes place. There are none of the typical trappings of a suspicious interview.

“Whether this is legitimate or desirable is not for the Court to comment on at this time; however, it is something that merits discussion.”

The rules for questioning criminal suspects had long been established and compliance was “necessary and expected,” he noted.

“The consequences of false admissions are often dramatic and a source of miscarriage.”

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