"Police officers who shot dead a teenager are going to unprecedented lengths, including requesting to use a Darth Vader-style voice distorter in court, to keep their identity a secret."
"Three suggestions were put forward to the High Court at Auckland yesterday.Option A: The surrogate witness – Officers A81 and A84 are taken to a small room next door to the Coroner's Court. They are supplied with headphones and can hear coronial proceedings. They answer questions to a "surrogate" witness, who is seated in the courtroom. The "surrogate" witness repeats the officer's evidence word for word. This option is seen as the safest by police to protect their identity. Option B: Voice distortion – Officer A81 and A84 give evidence using a voice distortion device. Police have trialled this technique, but say it is not absolutely perfect. The officers' lawyer, Todd Simmonds, called it electronic and lacking in human quality. "To be frank, it's a bit Darth Vaderish." Option C: The compromise – The coroner exercises his discretion to clear the court of members of the public and media. The two men give evidence in a closed court before only legal counsel and a representative or representatives of the Naitoko family. Family must sign "satisfactory undertakings" promising not to disclose the identities of the officers.""That is a heck of a lot of to-ing anf fro-ing to protect the two officers. When you also consider the display ads in the papers for the AOS on the 2nd aniversary of the urewera state raids to create terror and the lagging of prosecution in that case - well, it all looks very contrived.
This week Mr Naitoko's inquest was adjourned so the two officers could challenge a court ruling forcing them to take the stand. Their lawyer, Todd Simmonds, said the coroner's request would mean "parading them before a courtroom" packed with media and family.
As Simmonds argues, "We don't need to see either witness or hear their natural voices in order to fully satisfy the ... purposes of the coronial inquest. These officers are not on trial."Meanwhile a family has lost their beautiful man.