LONDON (AP) — Britain's Privy Council on Monday quashed the conviction of a New Zealand businessman who had received a life sentence for the murders of his wife and daughter and ruled that he should be granted a new trial in New Zealand.
It was an unusual intervention by the Privy Council Judicial Committee, which at the height of the British Empire was a very powerful body but still retains important powers now as a last ditch court of appeals.
A five-judge panel ruled in favor of Mark Lundy, who was convicted in New Zealand in 2002 after a jury decided he had attacked his wife Christine, 38, and his daughter Amber, 7, with a weapon similar to a tomahawk at the family home.
Lundy received a mandatory life sentence and his appeal was dismissed by the New Zealand Court of Appeals later in 2002.
He eventually had his lawyers bring the matter before the Privy Council, which had the authority to hear the appeal because New Zealand did not have its own Supreme Court until 2003.
Lundy brought the case before the Privy Council committee in November, more than 10 years after losing his initial appeal in New Zealand. His lawyers argued that he suffered a "substantial miscarriage of justice" when he was initially convicted. They argued that the verdict was unreasonable and not supported by the evidence.
The appeal was heard by four judges from Britain's Supreme Court and one senior New Zealand judge. Lundy's lawyers convinced the judges that fresh evidence should be considered in a new trial.
Lundy is now in his mid-50s. The council said he should remain in prison in New Zealand until his bail request can be heard by the High Court there.