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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How swift is too swift for justice?

Law reform will lead to swift justice, Power says
Simon Power Major changes to New Zealand's legal system that became law yesterday are the start of a modernisation of criminal justice in New Zealand, Justice Minister Simon Power says. Included in the changes are the removal of unanimous verdicts in jury trials and the doing away with witnesses giving evidence at pre-trial hearings such as depositions. From this week, it will no longer be necessary for all 12 jurors to agree on a verdict. Instead, 11 will be sufficient to ensure an acquittal or conviction. The other significant change will see evidence given at depositions - a hearing to determine if a case will go to trial - handed up in written form, instead of being heard orally.

We all agree that Justice needs to happen fast. For the victim allowing justice delayed adds insult to injury, and for the criminal as well, the lesson that your actions have a direct consequence can only be taught if that in fact happens with an immediate trial and sentence handed out.

Allowing mass delays in Justice is not beneficial to anyone, we all accept that, but the way you go about speeding things up is more Court rooms and more Court staff, I am very dubious about the ‘quality’ of Justice we are getting under National, because National’s desire for speed are driven by cost cutting not quality. Remember National wanted to dump jury’s altogether a couple of months ago, well that’s been tempered down to 11 person verdicts and changes to depositions evidence, neither of which seem to gain much speed.

Lowering the threshold from 12 to 11 on a Jury with such little forethought and due purely because National are seeking to cut costs doesn’t bode well and streamlining the depositions hearings has the possible effect to simply suck a lot more innocent people into the grinder.

At least National have dumped their desire to do away with Jury’s, but the Court will be out on these changes and any real speed they generate compared to costs in quality of justice.


At 30/6/09 11:17 pm, Anonymous bc said...

Well I can tell you from experience that lowering the threshold from 12 to 11 on a jury WILL cut costs. But there is a more important reason - there only needs to be one nutter on the jury and a seemingly straightforward trial can crash.
I was a juror on a trial which seemed obvious to everyone. A man and a wife would ring up the police when yobbo drunken teenagers would make noise and hurl abuse outside their house. Tensions built up and one night around midnight one of these drunk brain-dead morons deliberately smashed a window. The man come out of the house in a rage holding a baseball bat and clocked a couple of them as they were running away.
The defence argued self defence. While we had a lot of sympathy for this man it clearly wasn't self defence, he had the baseball bat on hand and came out swinging.
The trial itself only took a day but we deliberated for two days. One jurior could barely speak English so we had to explain the case to him! (An ethical issue surely - jurors shouls be able to understand English so they can hear the evidence for themselves). But the real problem was a man who said it would be ok for him to do that in Fiji so he was innocent. Despite telling him over and over that he is not in Fiji anymore and that he has to interpret it using New Zealand laws (ie self defence or not) he would not budge. It would honestly have to be one of the most frustrating experiences of my life - you cannot go anywhere, I was stuck with this idiot!
The judge called us back to the countroom three times and in increasing disbelief asked if we were near a verdict. Finally he got fed-up with us and in an annoyed voice told us that this wouldn't go on for a third day and that if we couldn't reach a verdict in the next hour he would declare that we couldn't reach a verdict and call a different jury.
We had to explain this to the idiot juror because he thought that the man would go free! When we told him that the accused would have to go through the trail again he changed his verdict.
So 11 out of 12 is fine by me!

At 2/7/09 9:58 am, Blogger Blair Anderson said...

The easiest and most expedient way to deal with court workload (and attendent injustice) is to resolve the tensions underpining 'drug law'and the plethora of unintended consequences. In answer to the naysayers to this suggestion, either drugs are a problem or they are not. One cannot back both horses and win.


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