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Sunday 12 April 2015

No Hughes 2nd inquiry: Solicitor Gen. explains

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 1st October 2013

Corporal Dougie Hughes
1.40PM: Coroner Gordon Matenga's decision to close the books on his inquiry into the death of Corporal Dougie Hughes whilst on duty with the NZ Defence Force in Afghanistan eighteen months ago has beeh upheld by the Solicitor General.

The Defence Force will therefore continue to remain publicly unaccountable regarding the gay soldier's death in circumstances which were connected with his sexuality.

Hughes had been struggling with his emerging homosexuality and whilst on duty in Afghanistan became attracted to a subordinate soldier. When the matter was drawn to the attention of his next in command Hughes was the subject of a meeting in which he was required to explain his feelings to the younger soldier, who then spurned him.

Within hours Hughes shot himself.

The Solicitor General says he has not been presented with sufficient new evidence, or evidence of irregularities in the original inquiries, which would warrant re-opening the file on Hughes death.

In an unusual move, the office of the Solicitor General has provided an explanation for declining a request for the matter to be re-examined after the Army and Coroner shut the books on their inquiries.

"The examination of the circumstances surrounding the death of Corporal Hughes was initially referred to Coroner Matenga, who opened an Inquiry into the matter," the Solicitor General backgrounds. "This Inquiry was subsequently adjourned... pending the completion of a New Zealand Defence Force Court of Inquiry into the same matter.

The NZDF Court of Inquiry provided its final report on 11 October 2012. After considering this report, Coroner Matenga decided... not to resume the original inquest - being satisfied that both the process and outcomes of the NZDF Court of Inquiry had fulfilled the purpose of a Coronial Inquiry, as defined [by] the Coroners Act."

"In making my own decision upon the requests received from Ms Poa [Hughes' mother], Mr Little and Hon. Phil Goff [both Labour MPs], I have essentially considered whether Coroner Matenga’s decision not to resume his Inquiry was correct," the Solicitor General continues.

Section 97 of the coroner's act provides for the Solicitor-General, or High Court, to order a second inquiry if deemed justified due to "fraud, rejection of evidence, irregularity of proceedings, or discovery of new facts, or for any other sufficient reason”.

In summing up the Solicitor General says "I have concluded that the information I received from Corporal Hughes’ family does not constitute new evidence under section 97 of the Act and would not have materially altered the Court of Inquiry’s outcomes. Nor have I found an example of irregularity or insufficient independence in the original proceedings that would justify a further inquiry. I have therefore determined that a second Coronial Inquiry into the death of Corporal Douglas Hughes is not in the overall interests of justice."

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