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Taine Rupena Tata Bryn Edwards appeared today in the High Court at Invercargill where he has had his conviction and jail sentence quashed by Justice Cameron Mander.
Last year, Mr Edwards was found guilty on three charges of reckless driving and one charge of manslaughter by inciting and encouraging the driver to operate a vehicle recklessly, thereby causing the death of nurse Emma Bagley.
He was sentenced to two years and six months in jail, was disqualified from driving for three years and ordered to pay $12,000 reparation for emotional harm.
Ms Bagley died in 2018 when the car she was in with her husband and two children was T-boned by a Subaru driven by Dejay Rawiri Kane.
The Crown case against Mr Edwards focused on his conduct throughout the night of the accident as he was with the driver, both at the times of earlier driving and at places where alcohol was consumed.
Defence lawyer Fiona Guy-Kidd QC appealed the conviction and sentence after a new witness, Madeline Arthur, came forward after reading about the trial.
Hours after the verdict Ms Arthur came forward and recounted that Mr Edwards and two other people had been actively discouraging the driver from driving away from a property a short time before the crash.
Her evidence was supported by a second witness, and neither of those people had been spoken to by police during the course of the investigation prior to trial.
During a hearing in May at the Court of Appeal in Wellington, Ms Arthur said Mr Edwards had actively discouraged Kane to drive that night.
"All those present at the house, including Mr Edwards tried to discourage this. Mr Kane did not live far away, and Mr Edwards suggested they walk there together," the Court of Appeal decision states.
Ms Arthur said after some discussion between the driver and other people in the house, Mr Edwards opened the passenger door of the car for the purpose of persuading Kane not to drive.
Mr Edwards then got into the passenger seat in order to convince Kane, and the door was slightly ajar when Kane drove off from the property.
Justice Simon France said the Court of Appeal was unable to dismiss the proposition that this narrative could have impacted on the jury’s interpretation of Mr Edwards’ role in the fatal drive and ordered a retrial.
‘‘For that reason we have concluded the fresh evidence test is met in all respects and grant its admission accordingly. A miscarriage of justice has arisen as a result of the jury’s inability to hear cogent evidence that counters the Crown case.’’
During today's hearing, Crown prosecutor Mary-Jane Thomas told Justice Mander that the Crown would not offer any evidence at a retrial.
Following this decision, Justice Mander discharged Mr Edwards and he left the court a free man.
Through his defence lawyer, Mr Edwards released a statement extending his sympathies to Ms Bagley's family.
The declaration stated he had always maintained that he would never have deliberately encouraged Kane to commit manslaughter.
"Mr Edwards, who was 20 years old at the time of the crash and 22 years old at the time of the jury verdicts, spent 269 days in prison between the sentencing and the date the appeal was allowed and the convictions quashed.
"This has taken him away from his employment and had a significant financial and emotional impact on him, his partner and his young family. His thanks his family and employer for their continued support throughout this process since he was first charged in May 2019 until the dismissal of the charges today."