Jail­house con­fes­sion was made to un­der­cover NZ Po­lice

Fiji Sun - - Fiji Today - NEW ZEALAND HERALD AUCK­LAND Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

Aman from Fiji who burned his friend to death over NZ$30,000 (about F$44,728) made a jail­house con­fes­sion to two Po­lice of­fi­cers pos­ing as fel­low pris­on­ers after po­lice set up an elab­o­rate sting. Nearly four years after the Jan­uary 2013 death of Shalvin Prasad, and de­bates in three courts, de­tails of the sting can fi­nally be re­vealed. Al­most weeks after the death, Po­lice launched Op­er­a­tion Heath, tar­get­ing Shivneel Ku­mar as a pri­mary sus­pect in the mur­der. Two un­der­cover of­fi­cers - one of whom was Indo-Fi­jian like Ku­mar - were given a “sub­ject pro­file” on the then 18-year-old.

The file in­cluded his crim­i­nal his­tory, de­tails on as­so­ciates, ve­hi­cles, in­ter­ests, likes, dis­likes, places he liked to hang outs, his drink­ing and smok­ing pref­er­ences, re­li­gion and fam­ily. They were told to use a cover story to de­velop a rap­port with the de­fen­dant “to a stage where the tar­get will feel com­fort­able talk­ing about his own crim­i­nal­ity”. Three days later Po­lice picked up Shivneel Shahil Ku­mar, who was then 18, from his house and took him to Manukau Po­lice Sta­tion for a two-hour in­ter­view. At 4pm, he was for­mally ar­rested, charged with mur­der, pro­cessed and told he would ap­pear in Manukau Dis­trict Court the next morn­ing and, sig­nif­i­cantly ac­cord­ing the Court of Ap­peal, was told Po­lice did not in­tend to speak fur­ther with him. Just after 6pm, the two un­der­cover of­fi­cers were pro­cessed on fake metham­phetamine charges and put in a cell to­gether. Ku­mar was then in­formed his toi­let was bro­ken and was moved into the cell with the two cops, who im­me­di­ately started up a con­ver­sa­tion with him.

The of­fi­cers tell him to get a good lawyer and ask him whether Per­mal is likely to nark on him. He told them he had killed Prasad with one punch and had then burnt his body in an at­tempt to de­stroy ev­i­dence. “I’ll be dead hon­est to you, when this s*** hap­pens bro my mind ran around the world bro, ran a mil­lion miles per sec­ond, the only thing I could think of was the only way I could leave no ev­i­dence was burn­ing ... Fire gets rid of the fin­ger­prints, ev­ery­thing,” Ku­mar said.

“They can’t even prove that I ac­tu­ally mur­dered ... all they can say is that I pos­si­bly mur­dered.” There was also a dis­cus­sion about money and Ku­mar told them the vic­tim owed him NZ$74,000 for drugs - an as­ser­tion never raised at trial.

De­bate on ev­i­dence

Ini­tially the con­ver­sa­tions they recorded were al­lowed as ev­i­dence in the trial. Jus­tice Ge­of­frey Ven­ning ruled it “was not akin to an in­ter­ro­ga­tion” and Ku­mar seemed re­laxed and keen to talk to the un­der­cover of­fi­cers. But the Court of Ap­peal ruled them in­ad­mis­si­ble and over­turned the de­ci­sion, slam­ming the Po­lice’s un­der­handed tac­tics to ac­tively elicit in­for­ma­tion from the de­fen­dant after he had cho­sen to end his for­mal in­ter­view. Jus­tices Har­ri­son, Court­ney and Clif­ford said the of­fi­cers breached Ku­mar’s right to silence under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. “Mr Ku­mar’s right [to silence] was of fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance and the state’s in­tru­sion upon it was very se­ri­ous,” the court ruled in a de­ci­sion. “We are sat­is­fied the use of Mr Ku­mar’s state­ment in ev­i­dence would call into ques­tion the cred­i­bil­ity of our sys­tem of jus­tice.” The Court of Ap­peal said the Po­lice had de­ceived Ku­mar’s lawyer when they told him he would not be spo­ken to again that evening.

It also re­jected the view that the dis­clo­sures had come with­out be­ing ac­tively prompted. “This was not a ca­sual, nat­u­ral or free-flow­ing ex­change. In­stead it was de­lib­er­ately di­rected by the of­fi­cers to sub­jects which might en­cour­age Mr Ku­mar to speak about the mur­der,” the court said.

“We are sat­is­fied that the of­fi­cers di­rected the con­ver­sa­tion in this way to elicit in­for­ma­tion which Mr Ku­mar would not other­wise have given. It is an ex­am­ple of the of­fi­cers coax­ing and ca­jol­ing him into a con­fes­sion.”

This month Shivneel Ku­mar (left) and Bryne Per­mal were de­nied leave to ap­peal their sen­tences.

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