Friday, 28 December 2012

Long Time Coming

A Reasonable Judge

There has been a succession of judges in New Zealand who seem to have the view that holding a judicial power to bail constitutes a duty to bail.  This infantile mistake has undermined the judiciary.  It has also led to innocent people being assailed by violent men and women who were out on bail awaiting trial for previous arrests.  In some cases this had led to tragic and completely preventable deaths. 

In the Auckland District Court we now have a judge who appears to see through the judicial confusion on this point.  Justice Russell Callander has decided that people arrested for violent offences should not be granted bail.  It has been a long time coming, but we are grateful nonetheless. 

This, as reported in the NZ Herald:

A district court judge is waging a crusade from the bench to stop serious offenders being released back into the community.  At one sitting earlier this month, Judge Russell Callander sent four defendants back into the cells while making strong statements about the need to keep the public safe.

During the hearings at the Auckland District Court, Callander said bail was granted too readily and judges could not take any more chances.  "We are almost weekly now presented with ugly situations in court where violent offenders seek and obtain bail, only to return home to inflict either death or further grievous injury on the original complainant," Callander said.

"That strikes fear into the heart of any rational community, and indeed into the heart of any rational judge assessing risk issues on bail."  Callander is usually based in Tauranga but has been filling in at Auckland.

Justice Callander is implying that those justices who release alleged violent offenders back into the community to await trial have departed from reason.  The Criminal Bar Association president Tony Bouchier, however, pointed out that every application for bail should be treated on its merits--which is a reasonable position.  However, his next statement predicated upon his previous statement about merits was less reasonable. 
"We have tens of thousands of people on bail who are abiding to their terms and not offending while on bail."
One wonders how many of those tens of thousands of people have histories or allegations of violence, such as some of the four whom Justice Callander recently refused to grant bail.
The four defendants who were subject to Callander's crack-down, who can't be named because it may influence pending court trials, were up on a range of offences.  One allegedly king-hit his partner, causing her to go blind in one eye.  Another allegedly robbed a jeweller's shop while high on meth, placing a shotgun to the owner's face.  The third was a recidivist burglar with 106 previous convictions facing a fresh charge of burglary.  The last was a man kicked out of a rehabilitation programme, resulting in breach of e-bail.
A person who violently assaults another citizen or threatens violent menaces has crossed a line.  Once crossed, that line risks becoming faint.  For many it disappears entirely.  Conscience becomes deadened.  Violence becomes an "ordinary" mode of  living. Such will prey upon others to get the gratification they desire.  Most violent crime in all countries is committed by a hardened, brutal few who repeatedly re-offend. 

Refusing bail for those indicted for crimes of violence must become the null, default position of judges.   

1 comment:

ZenTiger said...

One wonders how many criminals we are dealing with if "tens of thousands" are currently out on bail, and apparently not offending.

In any case, I'd still dispute that comment, and think it more accurate to say "out on bail, ad not being caught re-offending"

A recent car crash killed a grandmother in front of her grand children. The driver that rammed her was a 26 year old women driving whilst disqualified.

This person probably drives whilst disqualified often, but it took another fatality to catch her at it again. Judges who ignore stories like this are playing with people's lives, and they need to become more accountable for their decisions.