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Keep Criminal Law for Criminals


Keep Criminal Law for Criminals

The Astrid Andersen case shows we must restore criminal law to its proper sphere - controlling and punishing criminals, not well meaning people who make an unfortunate mistake, ACT New Zealand Sport and Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"When 111 calls for help go unsatisfied, when the law can't even guarantee a response to deliberate criminality it is madness to pour top police and prosecution resources into hounding folk who set out to help, not hurt," Mr Franks said.

"Before ACC, the prospect of negligence lawsuits kept carelessness at bay - but negligence recognises consent and reasonableness in a way that criminal law can't.

"Astrid Andersen's punishment has punished every Kiwi. It punishes all Kiwi kids who want someone to show them to be as self-reliant as their granddad. Every father who hopes someone will run a scout troop, take his kids on a bush experience, lead a kayaking trip, or even volunteer to coach a sport where someone could be hurt, has been punished today.

"No one excuses recklessness, and everyone feels for victims of unintended harm, but law punishing inadvertent mistakes steals freedom from every Kiwi. It steals our freedom to let someone organise something, or to let us do something that could hurt. Most volunteers will only do something for us if we accept the risk they might make a mistake. All we ask is that they act in good faith, taking the same care they would for themselves or their family. Our side of the bargain is to accept responsibility for misfortune when we have taken the risk. Using criminal law against them means they'll stop offering, and we lose the choice.

"Volunteers exposed to unlimited liability and criminal prosecution if something goes wrong won't volunteer. Why should they? Most accidents look avoidable in hindsight.

"When volunteers must be paid to take these risks, we deprive New Zealanders of activities that are part of our national character and lifestyle. Our least well-off suffer first. We can't afford to do everything we've traditionally done for ourselves, or each other, if they can only be done by paid experts. Paid experts pass on their costs, including insurance premiums.

"ACT is committed to cutting red tape and protecting the New Zealand traditions of community self help, and volunteering. I'm hopeful the Greens will support ACT in this.

"Adventure playgrounds wrapped in cotton wool, so there is no adventure, could even cost lives. Children, who might have been introduced early to the potentially hazardous outdoors - like swimming away from city pools - may now have no supervised experience before their first, and possibly fatal, exposure to risk as young adults. If official race organisers are priced or frightened off the market, some people will still race. But, like `boy racer' racing, it will be `illegal', `unauthorised' and probably more dangerous," Mr Franks said.

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