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Burglars' Christmas Bonus from Arrogant Law Bungle

Burglars' Christmas Bonus from Arrogant Law Bungle

Friday 13 Dec 2002 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

From Tuesday burglars, arsonists, wife beaters and other criminals will have a new technical defence when they come to court, unless the Government urgently and retrospectively fixes another criminal law bungle, said ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks.

"Tuesday December 18 is when the limp new Victims' Rights Act takes effect.

"It will be accompanied by the normal shower of self congratulatory announcements from the Government even though it has only a few of the rights victims were seeking. But it will have something no victim would want, a great new way for defence lawyers to frustrate the police and get criminals off on technicalities.

"Section 16 of the Act says that a victim's address can't be given in evidence or in information provided to a court without the judge's approval. This means the police would have to make a prior court application before they could even lodge a standard information on a burglary. Few burglars would fail with a defence that they were being asked to plead on a charge that doesn't even tell them where they were supposed to have burgled.

"What could be better news for burglars planning their Christmas season burglary spree?

"The Government will have to fix this. Don't expect them to have the humility or the grace to adopt the sensible solution proposed by the entire Justice & Electoral Select Committee, including the Labour members. The committee adopted ACT's warning about this obvious problem. We recommended for the Victims' Rights Bill, that when a victim needed address suppression the judge could order it, instead of having it apply automatically in every case.

"This arrogant Government was plainly irritated at a select committee daring to change the PC stuff the Minister wanted. They see things in terms of who is winning and losing politically, not what is good law. So the Government reversed the committee's provision, forcing its Labour committee members vote against their own recommendation.

As a result, our courts could now be the only place where the whole truth about an offence cannot be spoken. Most offenders know where they committed the offence, so the provision is probably aimed more at the media, than at protecting victims.

"ACT recommended practical alternatives to protect the precious principle of open courts transparent justice, and to ensure that the witness oath means it when it says "the whole truth", especially when everyone outside the court stays free to know a victim's address.

"ACT offered last week two solutions to the problem. We will support a principled solution, but we will not be bullied into collusion with the Minister's behind the screens attempt to rush through a fix to a bungle we pointed out right from the beginning", Mr 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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