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Jury Law Change Right - And Wrong

Jury Law Change Right - And Wrong

Thursday 22 Jan 2004 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today welcomed plans to replace unanimous jury verdicts with majority verdicts, but worried that another part of the package would erode key rights protecting defendants if the establishment decides to gang up.

"This erosion of rights is represented by the prosecution's ability to override a jury trial election on alleged threat of intimidation - an ability that could end up being misused," Mr Franks said.

"The risks with majority verdicts are worth running. The end of the right to a jury trial in complex and lengthy cases - and where the prosecution alleges threatened intimidation - will be tempting for the justice authorities where they think a jury might refuse to convict.

"Jury involvement has been a safeguard with unpopular law, or where the jury thinks the Government is abusing prosecution power. These possibilities are justification for protecting the ancient right to a trial by one's peers, rather than a Government-appointed judge.

"Further, if Justice Minister Phil Goff were truly serious about removing the rogue element from our courts and justice system, then he would address those rogue law-writers and rogue judges who refuse to toughen up on crime - as wanted by 92 percent of the population.

"Real jury reform would see juries given the power to ban an offender from receiving parole, or even to set the sentence. When judges will not give out the maximum sentence to a criminal, perhaps 12 representative citizens will," Mr Franks said.

ENDS

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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