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Defendant still in limbo after two years

Thursday September 07, 2017 Written by Published in Local
A defendant in a long-running case will be climbing the courthouse steps today for her 16th appearance on the same theft and fraud charges. 17090634 A defendant in a long-running case will be climbing the courthouse steps today for her 16th appearance on the same theft and fraud charges. 17090634

A woman has appeared in court for the 15th time regarding a case that has been going on for more than two years.


The result: The case has been adjourned yet again, and will be dealt with in the High Court today.

Maryanne Patricia Miller is facing a charge of intent to defraud and multiple charges of theft, offences that date back to 2015.

She was represented at her latest appearance by defence lawyer Mark Short, who asked the court to consider a dismissal for want of prosecution.

He said Crown Law had taken too long to disclose information relevant to the case, leaving Miller and her family in limbo for two years.

“I have had to review this case multiple times because it has been one of the longest cases I have ever had to deal with.

“The stress that has been imposed on the defendant and her family, having to continuously come to court, has been immense.

“If you were to take into account the time she was interviewed by police you are looking at two years,” Short added.

The court heard that a memorandum regarding the case had been submitted a year ago and he had been led to believe it would offer information regarding further charges. However, that information had yet to be disclosed, Short said.

“It is now a year afterwards and we are still receiving bits and pieces of information. I then have to request an adjournment so that I may review it.

“It just has to stop.

“The defendant has been seriously prejudiced by this and the whole family has been affected,” a visibly irritated Short said.

He asked the court to dismiss the matter for want of prosecution, adding that the Crimes Act provided grounds for Crown Law to re-file and proceed at a later date.

In his submissions Short said Miller had complied with all requests made by Crown Law.

“Her passport has been submitted to the court; we applied when she needed to go overseas to help her daughter who gave birth to a child.

“There were concerns raised there. I acknowledged that she would not be a flight risk; she was not: She came back and turned up to court.

“Put yourself in their shoes, would you like to be dragged to court for two years, and still be left waiting?” Short asked.

“There is a maxim in law that says, justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done, and in this case I don’t think this has happened.

“And I believe if there is ever a case that should be dismissed, it should be this one.”

Crown prosecutor Alex Herman opposed Short’s request, telling the court that they would need additional time to go over defence submissions, and asked for yet another adjournment.

“Your worship, in terms of your decision to dismiss this matter, it is not something that is done often, so we would need an adjournment to look into the submissions further.

“There were many allegations made in this case, and the police have been investigating those.”

Herman said the length of time the case had taken was to do with the investigative process and the added factor that the complainants lived overseas.

“We have to decipher the criminal elements from the employment elements. It’s not a straightforward case because of the number of allegations that were made. It is actually quite complex.

“The case began as intent to defraud then there were additional theft charges added.

“Police have been in touch with the complainants who are based in New Zealand, so we hope to get further statements from them.

“They are also anxious about getting this case resolved.

“We are asking for a two-week adjournment. This will give us ample time to obtain information from police and respond to the application to dismiss for want of prosecution,” Herman added.

“This case should have gone to trial on December 7 last year,” Short interjected.

“The poor defendant has been dragged through court for two years, I mean this is just unheard of.

“And again your worship, they have asked for an adjournment. Yes, it is justified but we are complying as well and I believe that enough is enough.

“There are a lot of concerns raised in the media already, regarding the length of time it takes for police to investigate cases, but nothing has reached two years. This is far too long.

“The court needs to consider that justice must be done.

 “It (a dismissal for want of prosecution) will send a message to the authorities, both police and Crown Law that if they are going to prosecute, make sure you do it properly. Get your ducks in order: Don’t keep us hanging on the side waiting for crumbs and then not following through, or delivering the information late, or giving us disclosures that we can’t even read properly.

 “They (Police and Crown prosecution) can’t hold someone at ransom for two years.

“This is not justice in my opinion,” Short added.

Whitta said that before he had heard the submissions in court on August 24, he had himself questioned the length of the case.

“I tend to agree with Mr Short, Mrs Herman,” he said.

“I have been through the appearances, and combined with today’s appearance in court, that is a total of 15 appearances to date. 

“I mean that is a very long time,” he said.

Whitta also noted that the dismissal for want of prosecution was a first-time application for him, admitting that he would require additional time to consider such an action.

“I think I would be making a mistake if I was to rush into it today. However, I don’t want this to drag on for much longer.

“It is a very long case, but there are also a lot of submissions to go through.

“While I don’t want to enter another adjournment, it is fair that while you (Short) made the request for a dismissal, that prosecution be given time to respond to it,” he said.

A few minutes later, Whitta announced his decision.

“I’m going to allow an adjournment until the first week of September, but at that point there has to be a decision made.

“And it is either going to be dismissed for want of prosecution or you’re going to set a date and say court disclosures are there, someone is going to be ready to enter a plea.

“As such the court will allow the Crown time to respond to defence counsel’s submissions. This matter is therefore adjourned to September 7.”

Miller then left the court once again, following her 16th adjournment.

The case is scheduled to appear in court today before Justice of the Peace Bernice Manarangi where Crown submissions will be heard.

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