In absentia sentencing
I've just come from the Opotiki District courthouse and am posting this at the local library internet.
I'd been waiting around the court all day for someone's sentencing to come up, but had to make a meeting across town. I saw a nephew of the defendant inside and gave him my mobile number and asked him to text should he be called. He said the registrars would put him at the end of the day.
I got a text saying to hurry back as he was appearing - then another "he's in the dock now." So I rush back and in the courtroom there's no-one in the dock. Odd. I sit down and the nephew says he's been taken from the dock. ? So what's going on, I wonder? The judge is reading something out and mentions his name. So the sentencing is still going ahead then - even though he's not present. Eh? How could this be.
I had been asked to appear as a legal representative to support his case (and I had my notes with me) so I have to interrupt the Judge and walked to the gate. I identified myself and explained I was to present his submission. The Judge asked whether I was a lawyer. I replied I did not have a practicing certificate and asked for leave. He declined. So - flomoxed and still out of breath from the run - I returned to my seat. The nephew and I exchanged glances - what was going on?
The Judge mentions submissions so I had to interject - I had his submission with me now, and the court would not release the case file to me even though I had given them a letter with the defendant's instruction to do so. He cut me off and said if I spoke again I would be dealt with (not sure whether he said he'd kick me out or jail me as such but it was clear that I was not allowed to speak).
So the judge starts going through the sentencing stuff and making a big deal about the trivialities and claiming DoC officers were members of the community who deserved to be protected and were the victims and claiming the defendant was aggressive. That you can't just do what you want and obstruct... And ... So I had to stick up my hand again - at some risk this time - and tell the judge that I could deal with the Doc issues in a submission that would take only one minute. The judge said he's warned me and told me anything more and he would (jail me/kick me out etc.). Now I had seen
The registrars have refused - repeatedly - to release his file to me - even with the defendant's explicit instructions in writing - so it is they who are guilty of obstruction. It is the Judge refusing to permit me to defend the accused who is doing the obstruction in this case. So upon leaving the court I told the Judge it was he who was obstructing. I did what I could. I'm appalled and dismayed - and angry.