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Elias is right, will we listen?

Written By: - Date published: 10:32 am, July 18th, 2009 - 43 comments
Categories: law and "order" - Tags:

The rednecks have predictably got themselves into a tizzy over Chief Justice Sian Elias’s comments on the need for judicial reform. I think you should read the speech for yourselves. It is an expert in the field discussing how the justice system is failing. Failing both victims and offenders, and the taxpayer. I’ll put in just a few quotes:

elais1

—–

elais2

Elias quotes Shirley Smith, in whose honour she was speaking:

shirley smith

I don’t think there’s much I need to add to that. Elias is right. Not because she’s some maverick saying something unprecedented. She is saying what the experts have been saying for decades. The problem is the politicians don’t listen because they see crime as a political battlefield.

There is a proud tradition of judicial independence in this country. Elias was completely within her rights to raise issues of how our justice system is run when addressing a Law Society conference, She did not cross the boundary of entering into political debate because she is not specifically supporting or opposing any parties’ policies.

If only a political/media culture was mature enough that Elias’s comments would lead to a proper debate on our justice system. It’s clear that’s not going to happen.

[On a side matter, Tv1’s Jessica Mutch said Justice Elias had annoyed her “bosses in the Beehive” with her comments. Did she not take Pols 101? In our system of government the judiciary is independent. The ministers are not the judges’ bosses.]

43 comments on “Elias is right, will we listen?”

  1. Peter Martin 1

    Further to your side matter…it appears that she is not alone in her lack of knowledge on things constitutional.

    Colin Espiner has had his words fed to him on this…
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/blogs/on-the-house/2600772/Dame-Sians-last-stand

  2. Tim Ellis 2

    Simon Power is not the first politician to criticise the Chief Justice for veering into political territory. The former attorney-general labelled her a “judicial activist” and said she was behaving like a “shop steward”.

    Even Helen Clark had a go at the Chief Justice for going beyond her judicial brief.

    • Pascal's bookie 2.1

      That’s interesting Tim, but I struggle to see how it’s in any way connected. By which I mean to say, why we should give a fuck.

      Perhaps you could help me out with a syllogism, hopefully explaining how we get from:

      “Even Helen Clark had a go at the Chief Justice for going beyond her judicial brief.”

      to

      “the content of Sian Elias speech should be ignored so as not to upset the rednecks”,

      or whatever it is.

      I say ‘whatever it is’ because I have no idea what you are getting at with your comment. By which I mean to say, again, why we should give a fuck about the things you brought up, in the context of Elias’ speech.

      To coin paraphrase; Got content?

      • Tim Ellis 2.1.1

        I’m not a redneck, PB and I didn’t get into a tizzy about what the chief justice said.

        • Pascal's bookie 2.1.1.1

          Interesting but still no syllogism.

          So no then, you’ve not ‘got content’.

          Rightio.

          • Tim Ellis 2.1.1.1.1

            I’m not dancing to your tune PB. One of the main points that zetitic made in this post is that the red necks are getting into a tizz over the chief justice’s comments. I put it into perspective by pointing out that the chief justice got off side with the last government for judicial activism as well.

            As interesting as the call for a prisoner amnesty may be, it doesn’t seem to be taken up by the Labour Party.

            • Pascal's bookie 2.1.1.1.1.1

              I don’t know what tune you are dancing to Tim, that’s kind of my point.

              How does something the last government said in an entirely different context put anything into perspective? What perspective? Is it a useful perspective, or one that only serves to distract?

              The ‘call for amnesty’ was a few lines in a 16 page speech. It’s the line that the rednecks have run with because it serves their purpose to focus on that rather than the arguments Elias put forward that led her to make that comment.

            • Pascal's bookie 2.1.1.1.1.2

              And it’s Eddie’s post. not Zetetic’s, and the rednecks part is hardly the point.

            • Rex Widerstrom 2.1.1.1.1.3

              As interesting as the call for a prisoner amnesty may be, it doesn’t seem to be taken up by the Labour Party.

              Bingo. Silence from Justice spokesperson Lianne Dalziel on this. Not a peep. In fact the last thing I recall hearing from that particular MP was the appointment of her colleague to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Board on the basis that “she’s from Hamilton”.

              This is an important issue, it’s one on which Labour could – and should – take the lead and support Sian Elias (not necessarily back everything she’s said, but back a debate) and yet the person responsible is notable for her absence.

              Not good enough.

            • Anita 2.1.1.1.1.4

              Rex,

              You might be interested to read this. While blogging is hardly engaging with the public, or publicly backing Elias, I enjoyed it and it’s clearly well thought through.

            • Rex Widerstrom 2.1.1.1.1.5

              Anita: I think your link’s broken.

            • Rex Widerstrom 2.1.1.1.1.7

              Okay, so Lianne Dalziell – very quietly, on a blog that preaches to the choir and not in the MSM – supports Sian Elias’s right to voice her opinion but agrees with Power:

              rightly kicking for touch the suggestion to bring in “early release amnesties’ as occur in other jurisdictions

              1. Power didn’t “kick for touch” he ruled it out.

              2. Amnesties work and have been shown to have minimal or no deleterious effects (in terms of any increase in reoffending) in other jurisdictions. So “kicking for touch” isn’t an adequate response. Get a policy, back it with a rationale, then defend it.

              It’s Labour who have “kicked for touch”. Again: Not good enough.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1.1.8

              It’s Labour who have “kicked for touch’. Again: Not good enough.

              Agreed Rex, Labour should be shouting the speech, the facts and their support of Elias and finding better methods to decrease crime from the rooftops.

  3. aj 3

    I’ve read that from end to end and I can’t see where she has stepped onto political territory.

    Eddie is quite correct: “Elias was completely within her rights to raise issues of how our justice system is run when addressing a Law Society conference, She did not cross the boundary of entering into political debate because she is not specifically supporting or opposing any parties’ policies”

  4. So Bored 4

    Sian Elias is to be applauded for her well chosen and wise words. We need more people like her in the places that matter who are not afraid to give an interpretation to something that does not match conventional mores. I am certain that she understands the political nature of her comments and does not need Power or any other lightweight to point out that she may be slightly offside. They might do better if they responded to the message, not the messanger.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      No, what we need is for the people outside of government to listen to her and then demand that our representatives do something about actually reducing crime rather than locking up the criminals and throwing away the key.

      • Swampy 4.1.1

        Would you prefer to live in a police state?

        • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1

          We get a police state from listening to the radical nut jobs in SST and Family Fist. This can be proven by the fact that our incarceration rate is second in the world.

          We don’t get a police state from actively working to decrease crime by supporting the people who have children, community reeducation on what causes crime etc.

          You know, When I read F. A. Hayeks’ The Road To Serfdom I was able to point out a real life example to his book – the USA under George W, Bush. Everything that he describes as happening under socialism was happening under a massive right-wing, anti-socialist government.

  5. stormspiral 5

    The media, and some posters here have missed the point entirely (as they do). Why on earth are they not looking carefully at the measured content of the speech, rather than getting bogged down with arguing about whther or not she should have said it?

    Somebody had to stand up and say it, and the least others can do is to look at what she said, along with its validity. It’s long past time for people to start looking at the part the whole society plays in what that society has produced and how it has happened. It’s called ‘taking responsibily’–that phrase that is so often aimed at the victims and almost never at the creators of the circumstances.

  6. Ianmac 6

    I liked Fran O’Sullivan’s piece in the Herald:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10585121
    especially the quote : “there is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world and that is an idea whose time has come”. Maybe the time has come the Walrus said to speak of enlightenment and non-political debate to stem the tide of outraged McVicars and lazy media.
    Read also Lianne Dalziel’s good piece at Red Alert.

  7. BLiP 7

    For those opposed to the Elias Solution, its not about listening. In fact, none of the human senses are involved at all. For them its all emotion, especially fear and greed,

    The fear has been pumped up by the McVicars of this world who have stood over and intimidated hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders to such an extent that they are living their lives frightened even in their own homes. And the greed has spilled over from the John Key National Government Inc lying prostrate before the its spiritual leader, The God of Profit, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the cost is being extracted from New Zealanders in misery as well dollars.

    The Elias Solution requires the application of the intellect, bravery and a generosity of spirit – qualities the knuckle-draggers struggle with at the best of times. We really do need strong leadership to see us through if Aotearoa is to address the crime issue and strengthen the nation.

    And where is our leader at this time, in the middle of this tough, economically depressed winter ?

    Well, according to The Herald, the nice Mr Key just got back from a trip to the Islands and is soon off to Cairns, then he’ll be heading to New York, there’s another trip to Oz, after which he’ll be going to Singapore, then there’s a trip to the Caribbean, following which he will be going to Thailand, there’s also a trip to Malaysia and, of course, lets not forget the trip to Tokyo for the rugby.

    Still, I suppose he’s got Wilkinson, Collins, Tolley, Bennett, and Lee to babysit us. Perhaps they can show us how to listen, when they are not out shopping for new shoes.

  8. stormspiral 8

    Fran is one of our more intelligent journos, but she also has fallen into the trap of giving space to Mr McVicar, which adds to the power of his group of ‘like-minded people’. The power of groups like that lies in their ability to be qouted, and this power goes far beyond the numerical value of their opinions. All societies have groups of all kinds with all sorts of opinions. Democracy decrees. rightly, that they should be heard, but that should not limit the ability of other different minded people to be heard. Once upon a time PR was constrained by the need for truth. In this competitive market it’s a race to see who can make the most noise. Journalism is also like that, which explains some of the inflammatory senseless twaddle that goes under the guise of news.

    Fran also says,
    ‘Elias got herself offside with former Prime Minister Helen Clark when she criticised the then PM for showing a “lack of understanding about judicial independence”, earning herself a broadside in return that judges should “stick to the bench”.’
    — a great point. This thing should not be bounded by political affiliations. It’s too important.

    Another good one to listen to is the first half of yesterday’s RNZ Jim Mora Panel, where Gordon McLaughlan and Brian Edwards did the great job of questioning Mora’s mores.

    • Ianmac 8.1

      Great listen thanks Stormspiral, on Jim Mora’s show. Nearly half an hour of considered thoughtful comment from Ewards and McLoughlin.

  9. RedLogix 9

    Well said BLiP. I downloaded and read the whole of Elias’s speech last night and quietly wept. Has the standard of public discourse in this country reached such a low point that such calm, measured and wise words, from a person of such experience and stature, be anything other than welcomed?

    Just posting to add my support here. I’ve little to add to the substance of this topic just now, except to say how deeply fed up I am with having to listen to ignorant, emotive and profoundly stupid rednecks shouting down the sane voices of justice and reason.

    • BLiP 9.1

      Cheers Red. I too tend to despair from time to time with what passes as contribution to discussion from the trolls and like to remind myself of a quote from e e cummings:

      To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else is to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight. Never stop fighting.

    • Rex Widerstrom 9.2

      Just posting to add my support here

      Good on you, RedLogix. But… and I don’t mean this to sound snarky at all, but it probably will… does anyone think Sian Elias has the time or the inclination to read The Standard?

      If we’re lucky she might have read a few MSM columns like Fran’s, but I imagine she’s feeling pretty embattled right now. I also imagine the lady’s not for turning (to borrow a phrase) but it still might be an idea for those of us who support her ideas (or even just support her right to speak out) to let her know directly:

      The Chief Justice
      Chief Justices Chambers
      PO Box 1091
      Wellington

      A letter or two to the dreaded MSM wouldn’t go amiss, either.

      • Anita 9.2.1

        Yes yes yes!!

        A letter or two to the editor is entirely do-able for anyone who’d take the time to comment here (and many others), and it could actually make a difference to this debate.

  10. North 10

    It’s the old “story about the story” rubbish, yet again, from sections of the media.

    The story is about New Zealand’s 2nd in the world level of incarceration and its consequences. Simple simple simple …… Media idiots want to make it into some major constitutional event, and for the weakness of the Right’s position on the issue they have a ready conspirator in that light-weight Simon Power fellow.

    Why were they satisfied with his pompous lecture on the branches of government ? Because they’re lazy ? Because their cognition is not great ? Because dispositionally they’re not listeners ? Because their big-fish-smal-pond egos need to have them right in the story ?

    It’s a mixture I guess…….

  11. Swampy 11

    “Surely it is time we asked as a nation why we are taking this approach instead of looking at the root causes of crime.” – quote from Fran O’Sullivan.

    Good stance but the replies in this thread and everywhere else show that the bulk of the population is not prepared to look beyond their own self interest, let alone the vast majority of liberally minded politicians.

    Family breakdown is one of the most consistent determinants of disadvantage in society at large yet successive governments have made it easier for families to split and separate. Labour’s introduction of the DPB offered a financial incentive for parents to separate yet the miserly benefit payments lead to poverty and disadvantage compared to the income in a household where one or more of the parents are working. I doubt anyone in the Labour Party really cares that much about the downsides of creating new categories of welfare and state dependency, they are far more interested in the political power they can buy through expansion of the State bureacracy.

    • Draco T Bastard 11.1

      Family breakdown is one of the most consistent determinants of disadvantage in society at large…

      http://www.physorg.com/news163090610.html

      The bottom line, she said, is that children in high-conflict married households tend to do no better than those in stepfather and single-mother families. How well parents manage their anger and conflict is obviously important for the outcomes of children, but, she stressed, policy initiatives that promote marriage “need to take account of how variation within marriage relates to child well-being.”

      http://www.counselorlink.com/divorce-children/

      Should we stay together for the kids? The answer from research is this: in a low conflict marriage, you can stay together for the kids with a reasonable hope that your sacrifice will pay off. In a high-conflict marriage, on the other hand, you can separate or divorce with confidence that you have helped your children escape the seriously damaging consequences of fighting between parents. Used wisely, both the questions and the answers can enrich the decision-making process and make your client’s time in therapy more useful and productive.

      Not really all that consistent. If people are considering divorce it’s probable that they exist within a high conflict marriage which is more damaging to the children than the divorce.

  12. Her Honour, Chief Justice Elias is just that, a legally trained Judge. This means she has degrees in law and experience as a lawyer and a judge. Degrees in law does not make one an expert in penology – there is no penology course on offer in any law school in New Zealand.

    When she gave that speech she spoke outside her field (and made an ass of herself in my opinion.)

    I guess that is what you get when you make political appointments to the bench.

    • QoT 12.1

      Damn straight. It’s not like extensive experience within the judiciary might have brought one into contact with recidivist criminals for whom our current “justice” policies have failed. Or demonstrations of how the law can fail to deliver justice due to political motives being imposed on legislation.

      Dame Sian has certainly not formed relationships with people in all areas of the justice system and actually discussed what does and doesn’t work with them, and she by no means is versed in how other countries implement justice policy and what effects they have seen.

    • Draco T Bastard 12.2

      The sheer stupid in Madeleine post is mind boggling.

    • Killinginthenameof 12.3

      In that case all your beloved McVicar should be doing is milking cows and gnashing his teeth about the maaaaris.

  13. RedLogix 13

    You confuse the knowledge gained from studying for a University Law Degree qualification (degrees being only an entry ticket into most professions) with the experience gained from many, many years working in the Courts, working day in and out with the penal entire system and all it’s numerous actors.

    The notion that “she spoke outside her field” is ludicrous.

    You may have also overlooked that Elias’s brother-in-law, Jim Fletcher, was murdered in Papamoa some years ago, so I imagine she also has some experience with what victims go through as well.

  14. Galeandra 14

    Madeleine says:Degrees in law does not make one an expert in penology there is no penology course on offer in any law school in New Zealand. ..she spoke outside her field (and made an ass of herself in my opinion.)

    Her speech seemed considered and wise- her judicial experiences contributing in no small part, I should think. Perhaps one day she might contribute to a ‘school of penology’ if one were to be formed. We surely need one, if this debate is any indication.

    The slur about ‘political appointment’ was simply that- so what’s your contribution to this most concerning issue?

  15. stormspiral 15

    Nice one, Red.

  16. The Chief Justice’s speech should be essential reading for anyone involved in the criminal justice system. Imprisonment does not work as a means of reducing crime levels. It’s so obvious, yet it seems nobody in power cares.

    There’s nothing particularly controversial in what she said. And I’m not convinced she’s crossed a line into forbidden territory. Judges make comments about sentencing matters all the time. They are often involved as speakers at conferences and law seminars. That a judge should have an opinion on something directly relevant to her job is really not that controversial.

    However, her message clearly doesn’t appeal to the usual suspects, becauses it exposes them as fools.

  17. randal 17

    who listened to hootn on rnz this morning.
    he just wanted to shoot the messenger
    the nats have made a pact with mcvicar and his lot and they do not want to face the facts.
    he has riled the rednecks and made a whole lot of angry rednecks permanently pissed off.
    I guess thats because otherwise they would begin to focus on how much prisons cost and the tanking economy.
    ity easy to feel angry but feeling angry all the time is psychopathic.
    some of these people should get a life and if they need a little re-assurance try reading a book on guadalcanal or d-day and the sacrifices made there.
    otherwise its just more me me me me me me.
    they should try living life on lifes terms.
    trying to direct everything is just self centredness to the max

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