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Judge lifts suppressions on 'Mr Big' op

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/06/2016 By Lydia Anderson

In a landmark decision, a judge has allowed the publication of tactics police used in an undercover "Mr Big" operation that led to a murderer's confession.

Kamal Reddy, 43, was found guilty on May 13 of murdering Mubarak Yusuf, 24, and her three-year-old child, Juwairiyah "Jojo" Kalim in 2006.

His victims' bodies lay undiscovered, buried under an Auckland bridge for almost eight years until Reddy unwittingly confessed to undercover police in 2014.

He was sentenced at the High Court in Auckland on Wednesday to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 21 years.

Justice Raynor Asher has now lifted most suppressions on the police undercover operation.

In his judgment, Justice Asher says Reddy had almost committed "the perfect crime" and without the undercover operation police had little evidence to bring him to trial.

The evidence was ruled admissible at a pre-trial hearing, despite defence opposition.

Although it's the second time a case involving such an operation has come before the court in New Zealand, it's the first where a jury has heard such extensive details.

Mr Big operations, where undercover police pose as a criminal gang with a big boss, have been frequently and controversially used in Australia and Canada, with some success.

However there have been concerns about false confessions and the use of the technique has now been curtailed in Canada.

Typically, a suspect is befriended by the gang and told he or she is a valued member, but must confess to any crimes to the gang boss, or Mr Big, who will get rid of evidence through corrupt police contacts.

Reporting on such cases has been permitted overseas, and details on Mr Big operations are widely available on the internet.

Reddy's case was the seventh time police have used the tactic in New Zealand.

The Crown opposed lifting suppression on the tactics, on the grounds it could endanger the safety of undercover officers and curb future undercover investigations.

However, Justice Asher said that must balanced against the interests of open justice, and the need for criminal trials to be in public.

The Mr Big technique had been debated as a tactic overseas, and it was important to publish all relevant details in order to allow "meaningful and adequate scrutiny and discussion about the acceptability of the technique", he said.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the results justified the technique.

"The public should not be swayed by the arguments of defence lawyers who endeavour to prevent this evidence from being heard in court," he said.

"The police's job is to put the best possible evidence before the court to ensure they are able to make the right decision."

There are no current ongoing Mr Big investigations, though the technique is likely to be used in the future.

The names of undercover officers engaged in Reddy's operation remain suppressed.

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