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Stinging Rebuke to Govt and NZ Court of Appeal

"We are lucky Hon Margaret Wilson has not yet abolished our access to the Privy Council and that we have dedicated counsel like Tony Ellis to keep our criminal justice system honest," says ACT's Justice spokesman Stephen Franks.

"The Privy Council judgement out today in the Taito and Bennett cases - which found that the NZ Court of Appeal had acted illegally - shows how badly wrong a Court can go in the interests of `convenience' when Government is prepared to collude with it.

"The background shows all the problems of excessive chumminess in a small country between the Court, the Solicitor General and Government Ministers. How bad will it get after the Attorney General has had a chance to stack a new Court with her ideological comrades?

"The New Zealand Judges were only trying to knock out spurious criminal appeals and the waste of legal aid on flimsy arguments. ACT applauds their intent but the way they went about it was improper.

"The Government then tried retrospective legislation to cure the faults. Yet the same people in Government and the same Court had attacked the home invasion law for retrospectivity. This Government now has a Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill that gives criminals the benefit of the retrospectively lighter sentences in that Bill, but not the retrospective risk of any heavier sentences.

"ACT helped slow the Government rushing through the Crimes (Criminal Appeals) Amendment Act 2001 to validate the breaches. This was the Bill the Government tried to slide through by arranging a secret briefing for Nandor Tanczos alone, from the Judges of the Court of Appeal.

"ACT proposed to deal with abuse of appeal rights by following English and German precedent in making sentences longer after unfounded appeals. The Government's amendment instead leaves the Judges spending their time turning them down.

"I hope the lawyers get lots of their criminal clients to go for re-hearings now and they get them. The Courts should then use those appeals to increase the sentences to somewhere near the levels the community might have reasonably expected in the first place. If they do that the Court would soon be under-whelmed by unmeritorious appeals," 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.

ends

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