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Was Sutch Guilty?

  • October 2nd, 2006

Was Sutch Guilty? I have no doubt that Dr Sutch’s defence lawyer at the trial, Michael Bungay, believed his client was guilty. Bungay was a flamboyant man who loved company. He needed to share his pride after the jury’s “not guilty” verdict.The jury verdict came early in the evening. I was working alone in the Law Society Library, unaware of the drama across the corridor in the No 1 Supreme Court. The library gave lawyer access to the robing room, where barristers kept their special shirts, collars, wigs and gowns. During ordinary court hours the robing room could be thronged with lawyers in various stages of dress, There was no better place for a young lawyer to hear gossip and to see the profession’s stars, both bright and dim..

That particular evening there was nobody else in the library or the robing room.

Bungay burst in to the silent library fully robed, plainly looking for someone to share the moment. Of course I knew who he was, but at that time he did not know me. I was simply an anonymous junior member of the fraternity, but someone who could at least appreciate the professional significance of the verdict.

As he took off his collar he told me the result, then could not resist adding – “that’s a first – the first spy to be acquitted in New Zealand”.

I have no doubt that he meant every word. In those days I moved more in left wing circles than today. Leading up to the trial the left had reassured itself that the charges must be trumped up, a product of SIS “Readers Digest” style anti-communist paranoia. The evidence at the trial was shattering. Stories circulated of his vanity, and the intellectual snobbery of the leftists of his generation. Why had Sutch met clandestinely with the Soviets? Still we told each other there must be a respectable explanation.

Bungay knew there was not, and briefly, at that moment of triumph, he wanted the scale of his achievement appreciated.




An independent author has written a book primarily about Dr William Sutch and published it on the internet, free for anyone to download.

The introduction on the website:
A work that concerns itself primarily with New Zealand’s ‘development’ phases, and its security service history up until when Dr Sutch, one of New Zealand’s leading figures during two very difficult periods in New Zealand’s development, was put on trial there by his peers for supposed espionage in 1975. Acquitted he died one year to the day from when he was first arrested. Though justice was seen to be done, this never was the case really, as there has remained a question mark as regards his innocence ever since.

Find the book at

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