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Former Dunedin doctor who stabbed teen to death claims trial was unfair

The former Dunedin doctor who stabbed a teenager to death in her bed claims his trial was unfair.

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Venod Skantha’s lawyer was in the Wellington Court of Appeal today, trying to overturn his murder conviction and life sentence. Source: 1 NEWS

Arguments on the grounds of a miscarriage of justice from Venod Skantha’s lawyer Jonathan Eaton QC were heard today in the Court of Appeal in Wellington.

Sixteen-year-old Amber-Rose Rush was murdered in her Corstorphine home in February, 2018.

Skantha was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of 19 years, in March this year.

Last year Skantha was found guilty of murdering Rush, as well as four counts of threatening to kill.

Jonathan Eaton QC today claimed prejudicial evidence was presented at the trial and the jury were wrongly not warned by Justice Gerald Nation that a witness had lied about "critical issues".

He said the judge viewed the witness as reliable and honest, so did not think it appropriate to caution the jury.

Eaton claimed the witness had a motive for lying, and by not making a warning to the jury, Justice Nation had “usurped the function of the jury” and was “putting on the prosecutor’s hat".

“I can’t think of a case with an uncharged accomplice more strongly needing warning than here,” he said.

Eaton said the defence case was “hamstrung” as a result.

Crown prosecutor Robin Bates said the witness gave a clear and concise illustration of events that happened on the night that Rush was murdered and that it would be incorrect to not take their evidence into account.

Bates said the witness said they tended to exaggerate and liked attention.

Skantha was set to be dismissed from his role at the hospital for serious misconduct, but after telling authorities his mother had died, he was given another chance, Bates said.

It was later found that was a lie and his mother was not dead, he said.

“The precariousness of Dr Skantha’s position at the hospital cannot be underestimated.”

Bates read out a message from Rush to Skantha which told him to grow up and said he was lucky she hadn’t told the hospital about Skantha working while intoxicated, giving minors alcohol and sexually assaulting them.

Justice Gilbert, Justice Miller and Justice Cooper reserved their decision on the appeal, with one judge commenting it would take some time to reach a decision as it was a “difficult case.”