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Franks Seeking Charges Against Tariana Turia

Franks Seeking Charges Against Tariana Turia

Friday 9 Nov 2001 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Justice, Law & Order

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks has written to the Solicitor General asking that he charge the Hon Tariana Turia with "Scandalising the Court".

The charge is rare, and usually used against the news media. It says that any act done, or writing published, which is calculated to bring a Court or Judge into contempt or to lower a Judge's authority, or to interfere with the due course of justice, or the lawful process, is a punishable contempt. Technically there are no limits to the penalty that can be imposed. In a 1997 case, a person received a $1000 fine and six weeks imprisonment for this offence.

The evidence for the charge is correspondence between Ms Turia and the Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections.

"In this correspondence, Ms Turia accuses the parole board of being `hugely prejudicial', says there are indications of `a lack of integrity' in the parole board hearing process and proposes `further investigation into how the judge in the second hearing was able to impose his personal negative beliefs about an inmate and deny a clearly warranted early release'.

"She did not raise her concerns with the Parole Board or give the Judge any opportunity to comment. Disguised as an "invaluable contribution to the effective management of rehabilitation programmes and reintegrative services", it is in fact an extended whine on behalf of an evil criminal she considers "whänau". She would be doing more for her whänau and for Maoridom if she instead showed by example that she upheld the law - that law should mean what it says, and that parole is a privilege to be earned, not a right.

"This is totally wrong behaviour for a Minister of the Crown. An attack on the personal character or conduct of a Judge and of legal processes is punishable contempt because it undermines the authority of the justice system and its tribunals. It is worse when she uses her office to benefit someone close to her.

"Tolerating it in a Minister because she only wanted to help a relative or associate, says nepotism is okay.

"I look forward to the Solicitor General's prompt response. I don't look for any serious penalty. She plainly doesn't understand why we have rules against nepotism, and abuse of judicial processes. There will be a political punishment for keeping a dangerous minister. But not to charge her would make it unfair ever to charge a journalist again for that offence." Stephen Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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