Trial? Why would you bother with that?

Written By: - Date published: 9:40 am, March 1st, 2012 - 16 comments
Categories: law and "order" - Tags:

No-one wants to see people who are likely to hurt people released on bail. That’s why successive governments have tightened bail rules. Now Sensible [sic] Sentencing wants every charged with a crime bearing 2 or more years locked up without bail. Not the first organisation with those initials to favour guilt upon accusation and punishment without trial. Michael Bott takes up the story.


Garth McVicar spokesperson for the SS Trust wants to make it difficult for people presumed innocent to get bail, especially violent offenders. By “violent” he uses a definition that includes those defendants charged with an offence that attracts a sentence of 2 years or more. “No bail for any person accused of an offence which attracts a sentence of two years or more. (NZ Herald 28 February 2012) .”
Under the suggested changes to “toughen up” our already tough bail laws, Greenpeace protester Lucy Lawless would be remanded in custody without bail as “burglary” is a charge that attracts a maximum sentence of 10 years. [And with trials taking anything from 6 months to 4 years to happen, a potentially innocent person could be long time locked up without conviction or even trial. Eddie]
If there are around 9000 inmates currently in our prisons and it costs $285-00 per day to house them, that means it costs our country $2,565,000-00 per day to house our inmate population. If we start banging away peace or environmental protesters it is going to become very expensive to deny our citizens their liberty even though they are still presumed innocent. The Government is looking to kick-start our economy with the Christchurch rebuild, no doubt if we toughen our bail laws in this absurd way we will also be doing it by building more prisons. Anyway you look at it, these changes are more expensive than sensible.
The suggested changes are offensive to the doctrine of separation of powers in that if Police (part of the Executive) are unhappy with a reasoned bail decision they can ignore the decision and veto it, automatically transferring the decision to an appellate court. So the executive would make inroads into the judicial sphere, with the judge no longer a neutral umpire who can make a final decision, merely a toothless source of helpful suggestions that police are free to ignore if they choose.
There is a kind of naivety in all of this campaign. For one it presupposes that people who are charged with crimes attracting a sentence of over 2 years (if convicted) automatically lose their liberty by dint of being charged, must be guilty, because the Police are always right. Further, we can trust the Police because they are always correct and get the bad guys. We know this is true, because the bad guy has been charged. The corollary being that any notion of a robust defence can be dispensed with, because being charged is pretty much game set and match. This sort of right wing world view, which right wing populist PM John Key appears to share (he is reported as saying “he is open to considering tougher laws on bail), in reality belongs in some kind of black and white fictional town called “Pleasantville.”
Further, when a person who is granted bail re-offends the SS Trust want the Judge to be held “accountable” – I don’t know what this means, but the worry is they want to impose some kind of retribution or punishment when occasionally a judge makes a bad call. This directly erodes notions of independence. Could anyone have a fair hearing, if a judge is always looking over his or her back at some kind of opinion poll? This begs the question, why have a judiciary at all? Why not just have a prime time 0900 phone in number?
* No bail for any person accused of an offence involving serious violence as defined by the “three strikes” legislation.* No bail for any person accused of an offence which attracts a sentence of two years or more.* Police given the discretionary power to veto a judge’s decision to grant bail which would then automatically move the application to a higher court.* The views of victims of violent offending be given paramount consideration.* Every serious bail breach is formally investigated.* More accountability for judges who expose the public to undue risk.
– Michael Bott

16 comments on “Trial? Why would you bother with that?”

  1. ianmac 1

    The accountability of Judges could easily be solved. Let there be Elections of Judges, held every three years to coincide with General Elections.
    Judge candidates could make the policies/promises known and we could vote accordingly.
    Judge candidates could be any right-minded citizen who is a member of SST..
    Judges who did not live up to promises would be de-elected next time.
    Judges would of course, be free to set sentences at whatever level they felt like.

    There Mr SST. Go for it.

  2. muzza 2

    Is this the SST’s way of supporting the private prison growth industry?

    • McFlock 2.1

      now muzza, as far as I’m aware there’s been no actual proof that the SS or McVictim have recieved funding from transnational corporations that specialise in operating private prisons. I’m sure that any massive spike in the prison population that results from locking up innocent people until the courts dismiss the charges, as well as holding people on remand for longer than their actual sentence, would be a completely unforeseen outcome of the policy.

      • muzza 2.1.1

        SST are about as broken as Transparency International NZ!

      • aerobubble 2.1.2

        SST is a communist organisation designed to make courts so expensive and unworkable that the people rise up in a big red revolution.

        Look seriously, we have slavery on NZ fishing vessels and soon trial by legislator avoid the nasty judges making balanced decisions, when people actively believe we have more representatives per head of pop than OZ you better believe nothing that you hear form fringe right is based in fact.

  3. Ianupnorth 3

    SST and Family First – the two most ridiculous outfits in NZ (IMHO).

    • McFlock 3.1

      No T. They’re not a trust.

    • I wish they were just ridiculous Ian/p .I am afraid they are not, they are both extremly dangerous . It would be interesting to know who is financing them both . The publicity they recieve is beyond belief . They are also very anti Labour/Green and I believe have lost us a lot of votes in recent elections.

  4. Jackal 5

    Just to clarify the total costs associated with incarceration. Last year, Corrections annual report (PDF) shows they received taxpayer funds running at nearly $2.2 billion to 30 June. That works out to be a daily cost per prisoner of $670. This figure does not include Police or Court costs.

  5. Dr Terry 6

    It is a shame that quite decent people believe they must turn to the ever punitive “Sensible” Sentencing outfit, in their despair. We must be sure to offer viable alternatives (surely not hard to do!) Moreover, this is encouraged when the media eternally focus upon McVicar and his uneducated views.

    • muzza 6.1

      I would have thought it be the responsibility of thinking people to either take back, take over or re-create the corrupted, co-opted, pseudo public interest entities. Frankly to anyone with a shred of intelligence or self respect, the cacading joke that is these entities is surely beyond reproach, that they are allowed to impact lives.

      The kicker is usually in the name, invert it then you will be heaing the right direction.

  6. Tom Gould 7

    I heard a guy from the “SS” on the radio the other day hitting out at those who adopt false identities, yet their own ‘man in Parliament’ and legal advisor did just that, a dead kid if my memory serves, and their leader Garth the Great vouched for him, and neither has apologised to the vicitms. Funny how crazy RWNJs can do hypocrisy so effortlessly, without blinking or blushing.

  7. Populuxe1 8

    Just once I would like a reporter to ask, “Mr McVicar, do you have any legal, psychological, or social work training that, in fact, gives you any expertise at all in this area?” Other than being a reactionary, conservative old fool, that is…

  8. Hami Shearlie 9

    McVicar lost all credibility when we found out he knew all about David Garrett’s dirty little secret, and went along with keeping it all hush-hush!! Harsh penalties and three strikes for others but not for our special little friends!!

    • What about his support of the ghastly murder of the 12 boy graffitti boy.
      He’s a racist bigot . and wasnt he very quite over the Graham Capil case . As was his partner in the Family First . We would all be better without either .

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