Swimming New Zealand Contempt for Justice

I have mentioned before the accusations made against me that resulted in Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) ordering me to attend a three day hearing before a criminal psychotherapist. The allegations were pretty brutal. They were based on lies by two dissatisfied club members. Among other accusations they said I had encouraged female swimmers to get pregnant so they could take training advantage of the early pregnancy increase in blood volume. They also said I had forced female swimmers to attend an Auckland strip club. And they claimed I was a sexist bully.

Christian Renford, the CEO of SNZ assured me that because of the serious nature of the accusations I would be provided with the psychotherapist’s report. Otherwise I would never have agreed to the hearing. I have no complaints about the hearing. It was long. It was tough. But I felt it aimed at getting to the truth of the complaints. Mounting a defense against wild accusations of this nature is never easy. I was fortunate that one of my accusers chose to photograph a friend, topless in the girl’s changing room at the National Swimming Championships, and post the photographs on public social media. SNZ showed little interest in this clear breach of their rules, but the psychotherapist was clearly not impressed. Her photography certainly supported my argument that the accusations did not originate from a reliable or trustworthy source.

Sometime later, I am not sure when, the psychotherapist prepared a report and sent it to SNZ. I wrote to SNZ asking to be sent my copy, as promised by the CEO. SNZ wrote back declining my request. I asked the Privacy Commissioner to investigate and that is where we are at today. I do know that SNZ have asked their lawyer to deal with the Privacy Commissioner. I assume that means they know they are skating on very thin ice. And that is certainly true.

I intend to push this as far as I can in order to receive the psychotherapist’s report. It is beyond belief that anyone should be the subject of accusations of this nature, should have to sit through a three day hearing and be denied access to the result. The contempt shown by the SNZ Board and staff for justice, for what is right and decent, is beyond belief. Their behaviour is below contempt. Nothing can justify the disgusting decision taken by a clearly corrupt Board and senior staff. An organisation that is 60% funded by the state must obey the law. We all must obey the law. SNZ has not done this.

I am no lawyer. I have no legal training at all. But it does not take a Queens Council to know that denying an accused person their right to hear the result of their trial is illegal and a violation of a basic human right.

In fact it is a violation of a law that dates back over 800 years to 1215 and the signing of the Magna Carta. Clause 29 of the 1297 version of the Magna Carta guarantees the right to a free and fair trial.

No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will we not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers. We will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right

So, according to the Magna Carta, I was entitled to a fair trial. Did this happen? Through the investigation and hearing I think it did. But what does twenty-first century law say about SNZ’s decision to deny me access to the final judgement? As it turns out my right to see the psychotherapist’s report has quite a bit of legal support. Let’s look at four of the issues involved.

Equality of Arms

The right to equality of arms forms an intrinsic part of the right to a fair hearing and means that there must at all times be a fair balance between the prosecution and the defence. At no stage of the proceedings must any party be placed at a disadvantage vis-à-vis his opponent. Quite obviously when SNZ have access to the final judgement and I do not, the principle of “equality of arms” has been violated. I have been placed at a disadvantage to the Board and staff of SNZ. The law does not allow that.

Publication of Judgements

As a minimum, every person charged has the right to the judgement being made public. Publicity of judgements is required “to ensure scrutiny of the judiciary by the public with a view to safeguarding the right to a fair trial”. Not only are SNZ violating this law, it is highly likely they are hiding the judgement because there is something in it they do not want the membership to see. SNZ stand guilty of the very reason the publicity law was designed to prevent. SNZ are as guilty as sin and we have a right to read what it is.

Reasons for Decisions

Hearings must, at all times, give reasons for their decisions. The accused person is entitled to receive a reasoned judgement within a reasonable time; such judgement is essential for the purpose of lodging appeals. Again I have clearly been denied this right. Just consider what would have happened if I had been punished as a result of this hearing. I would have had no basis for appeal; no justice. But would the SNZ Board or management care? Not if this decision is anything to go by.

Transcripts of the Trial

The law goes further than requiring the accused to receive the final judgement. By law an accused must be provided with transcripts of the hearing. Although I am not asking for that in this case, it does go to show the extent of SNZ duplicity in hiding the judgement of the hearing.

These rights form a part of what it means to provide a fair hearing in our society and in our sport. They constitute the foundation on which a society and a sport, respectful of human rights in general, including the rule of law, is built. But what do the SNZ Board or management care about that? If this case is anything to go by, not a lot is the answer. I think it is worth the fight to be sent the report. Today it is my fight. Tomorrow it might be yours.

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