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Sounds double murderer could get meeting

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/08/2016

A meeting between a father and the man who murdered his daughter is one step closer to happening.

Corrections has been ordered to reconsider its decision not to allow journalist Mike White to report on the first-ever meeting between Gerard Hope and Scott Watson.

Watson was convicted of the 1998 murders of Mr Hope's daughter Olivia, 17, and 21-year-old Ben Smart .

The pair were last seen boarding a yacht moored in Endeavour Inlet off Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds on New Year's Day 1998.

Their bodies have never been found.

Both Watson and Mr Hope have sought to have Mr White present at a meeting between the pair, where Mr Hope wants to question Watson about the murders.

But Corrections opposed Mr White attending as a journalist three times, most recently in March when a letter advised Mr White could only be present as a facilitator if he gave an undertaking not to use any information he received for professional purposes.

"There is no suggestion the proposed presence of Mr White is necessary to discuss new information which has come to light or the discovery of new evidence," the letter said.

In a High Court judgement released on Thursday, Justice Jillian Mallon acknowledged the meeting is unusual and likely to be tense, with the potential for misunderstandings to arise and participants to inaccurately recall what was said.

"The right to freedom of speech has a high value in this particular instance," Justice Mallon said.

"Corrections' reasons do not demonstrate that the interference with freedom of expression is justified."

They said there was no reason Watson's lawyers could not put forward to Corrections conditions under which the meeting would take place, and ordered costs be paid to Watson.

Watson, who has maintained his innocence saying he never met or even laid eyes on the pair, was sentenced to life with a minimum 17-year non-parole period.

He was denied parole on his first application after being assessed as "a very high risk of future reoffending".

Watson has exhausted all avenues of appeal and was denied a royal pardon by the Governor-General in 2013.

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