One of the legacies of Mike Sabin’s time in Parliament has resurfaced. He claimed to be responsible for the development of a private member’s bill where the right to silence would be compromised if the complainant was charged with certain offences against children. If the bill is passed an adverse inference can be drawn if the defendant exercised the right to silence.
The bill resurfaced this week in the name of of Ian McKelvie.
Sabin of course has now gone from Parliament so that he can deal with personal issues.
The bill represents a direct attack on the right to silence which is one of our most cherished rights. It should always be up to the state to prove guilt, and the fact that a defendant chooses not to respond should not put them in a worse position than they would otherwise be.
If passed the bill could have significant implications. For instance the prominent New Zealander currently before the courts on various charges may be glad that his or her case is being dealt with before the passage of the bill. There is some speculation that this person may have had lunch with David Cunliffe. I am not sure that this is correct.
The Herald reported that this prominent New Zealander faced charges including indecent assault charges where the maximum penalty is ten years jail. This suggests that the complainant may be under the age of 12 and the exercise of the right to silence by the prominent New Zealander could result in an adverse inference being drawn if Sabin’s bill has been passed.
The prominent New Zealander has on the last possible day lodged an appeal against the refusal to continue their name suppression and the decision will in all probability be at least a month away. I am all for the identities of victims being suppressed but I do think that prominent New Zealanders should at some stage face up publicly to allegations against them.
Please note there should be no speculation on the identity of the prominent New Zealander while the suppression order remains in place. Moderation has been turned on to prevent speculation on who this prominent New Zealander may be.
But it is important that there is public debate about such important issues as the right to silence and any proposals to change this long recognised right.