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Relative blasts Ewen Macdonald as 'ticking timebomb'

Published: 10:54AM Thursday August 02, 2012 Source: ONE News

A close relative of murdered Feilding farmer Scott Guy says other offences admitted by Ewen Macdonald show he is "a ticking timebomb".

Macdonald, 32, was last month found not guilty of murdering Guy, his brother in law, who was shot early one morning in July 2010.

But what his jury didn't know is that Macdonald had confessed to three other violence and property damage charges not connected to the murder case.

Suppression of those charges has now lapsed, as first reported by ONE News last night.

While the offences are not connected with Guy's murder, Chanelle Bullock, sister of Guy's widow Kylee Guy, says it shows the nature of Macdonald.

"Ewen Macdonald is a ticking timebomb and we should be very worried that this criminal will be out to live his life among us," Bullock said.

Suppression criticised

In the three previously suppressed charges, Macdonald admitted slaughtering 19 calves with a hammer in August 2007, destroying more than 10,000 litres of milk the night before, and burning down a duckshooter's hut a year later.

The fact that this information was not available to the jury, or the public, during Macdonald's trial for Guy's murder has brought renewed criticism of the use of suppression orders.

Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust said most New Zealanders would think the justice system is about openness and honesty.

"So you would have thought all the charges would have been out in the public arena so the jury could make their decision."

The judge suppressed the charges to avoid prejudicing Macdonald's trial for Guy's murder.

Dr Chris Gallivan of the Canterbury University School of Law said: "The emotive reaction is so strong that we're likely to give it more importance than it ought to have in the case."

The jury at the Wellington High Court was however allowed to know about three other charges Macdonald pleaded guilty to.

Those charges related to poaching deer at night, setting fire to a Guy family home and vandalising Scott and Kylee Guy's new home.

Gallivan says the jury was told about those charges because they were directly relevant to the case.

"The object of the wilful damage and arson was Kylee and Scott Guy. So its value was much much more than just merely showing that he's not a nice person," he said.

Macdonald is in custody waiting to be sentenced on the poaching, property damage and animal slaughter charges.

'New Zealanders should know'

A legal academic has also bought into the debate, saying that while 12 jurors may be charged with the task of deciding high-profile cases, the rest of New Zealand should still be able to know all the details.

Scott Optican, an Associate Professor at Auckland University's Faculty of Law, told he would not like to be the person deciding for New Zealanders what they should and should not know.

"I'm an American - I believe in the principle of open justice, where anything can be reported. Suppression decides what you need to know and I would not like to be sitting as that person," he said.

"If it's in the public interest, people want to read about it. Twelve people do have to decide on the case, but what about the four million other people?"

Though certain information should be withheld from a jury, Optican said there are other ways of managing media coverage of high-profile cases than slapping suppression orders on them.

"I see lots of different variations of suppression orders, because of certain things happening in the proceedings or to give people time to get their ducks in a row," he said.

"But in the States you can't suppress information in any significant way because of amendment one. If you are worried about what the jury knows, you can question them about what they know of the case - the questionnaire in the US is about 300 pages long - or take them to a hotel."

He said in the US, jurors can spend all day in court, go back to the hotel and not be able to read or watch any news - and it can be done in New Zealand.

Optican said he can understand the impulse behind the use of suppression orders, but they should be used sparingly.

In 2010, then Minister of Justice Simon Power signed off proposals to make it harder to get name and evidence suppression in court.

The rules came into effect in the courts in March this year, and was a result of media and public criticism over judges giving name suppression to high-profile people like sports stars and celebrities.

Farming leader 'sickened' by attacks

Meanwhile, Manawatu's Federated Farmers president says he is sickened to hear Ewen Macdonald was responsible for emptying thousands of litres of milk from another farmer's milk vat and beating 19 bobby calves to death.

Andrew Hoggard says he would not expect another farmer would do such things to one of their colleagues.

Hoggard says a fellow dairy farmer should know the amount of work that takes place on a daily basis to look after those calves and produce that amount of milk.

- With Newstalk ZB