Scott Watson refused bail to help lawyers with appeal against convictions for Hope and Smart murders

Convicted double-murderer Scott Watson has been refused bail pending an appeal against his convictions for killing Olivia Hope and Ben Smart.

The appeal might be heard in June or July 2022.

Watson asked the Court of Appeal to release him on bail so he can help his lawyers prepare his case for the court.

But in a decision issued on Monday the court’s president Justice Stephen Kos said he was “far from persuaded” that general bail was needed to allow preparation for the appeal.

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The terms of reference for the appeal were relatively narrow so far, focussed on the reliability of scientific evidence.

The Crown had offered “commendable and relatively unusual” access between Watson and his lawyers including a computer to see documents, meeting space or video link for extended hours including, if necessary full days, the judge said.

He would not grant bail but Watson still had the option of asking prison authorities for temporary release, in the same way a prisoner could be released to work “outside the wire”.


Campaigners for Scott Watson, convicted of the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in 1999, gave tours of his boat, Blade. (First published 2016)

The likely good behaviour of Watson did not mean, without other compelling considerations, that he should be released on bail ahead of a fully considered parole hearing or a successful appeal, the judge said.

The families of Hope and Smart strongly opposed his release on bail unless his conviction was overturned.

Watson is being held in Christchurch men’s prison at Paparua, and is classified minimum security. One of his lawyers is based in Christchurch.

Hope, 17, and her friend Smart, 21, disappeared early on January 1, 1998 at New Year celebrations in Endeavour Inlet, Marlborough Sounds.

Watson’s yacht Blade was one of the many boats in the inlet that night. The Crown alleged Hope and Smart went with him to Blade and were not seen again.

Watson, now 50, denies meeting the pair or having anything to do with their disappearance.

Scott Watson leaving Blenheim District Court in late 1998, awaiting trial on charges of murdering Olivia Hope and Ben Smart. (File photo)


Scott Watson leaving Blenheim District Court in late 1998, awaiting trial on charges of murdering Olivia Hope and Ben Smart. (File photo)

But at his trial in Wellington in 1999 he was found guilty of murdering them and sentenced to life imprisonment.

An appeal in 2000 was dismissed, and in 2003 the Privy Council declined to hear his appeal.

The Governor-General declined his first application to exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy in 2013, but in August 2020 she asked the Court of Appeal to look at the case again to consider whether a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.

The Governor-General’s reference concerned the reliability of evidence of two hairs allegedly from Hope that were said to have been found on a blanket on Blade.

Watson became eligible for parole after serving 17 years’ jail, but has been declined release so far. He’s due to be considered again by the end of November.

Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in February 1997. (File photo)


Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in February 1997. (File photo)

The Corrections chief executive can allow temporary release for reasons such as work, or furthering the interests of justice.

To exercise the release power the chief executive has to consider issues including whether there would be an undue risk to the safety of the community, and the extent of supervision or monitoring that might be needed.


* December 31, 1997: Ben Smart, Olivia Hope, Scott Watson and hundreds of others gather at Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds.

* Early January 1, 1998: water taxi drops Hope, Smart, and a man alleged to be Watson, at a yacht in Endeavour Inlet. Hope and Smart were not seen again.

* June 1998: Scott Watson charged with murdering Hope and Smart.

* June-September 1999: Watson on trial at the High Court in Wellington where he is found guilty of murdering Hope and Smart.

* November 1999: Watson sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve at least 17 years before being eligible for parole.

* May 2000: Court of Appeal dismisses his appeal.

* November 2003: Privy Council declines to hear a further appeal from Watson.

* May 2004: Watson marries Coral Branch in a prison service. The pair separate in 2007.

* 2008: Watson applies to the Governor-General for the exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy.

* December 14, 2012: Watson’s mother dies, he is allowed to attend the funeral under guard.

* July 2013: Governor-General declines his application, on the advice of the Minister of Justice.

* November 2017: Watson applies a second time for the exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy.

* August 2020: Governor-General refers Watson’s convictions to the Court of Appeal, likely to be heard in mid-2022.

*CORRECTION: Scott Watson’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed in 2000. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said it was 2020. (Amended October 18, 2021. 7:32pm)

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