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Smith Conviction Justice Gone Wrong

Smith Conviction Justice Gone Wrong

Wednesday 24 Mar 2004

Dr Muriel Newman Press Releases - Social Welfare

ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today labelled National MP Dr Nick Smith's contempt of court conviction as nothing more than a completely avoidable misuse of justice.

"It is completely outrageous that an MP has been convicted for airing his concerns over the secret Family Court, after being approached by the very people he was elected to represent," Dr Newman said.

"Further, Radio New Zealand and TVNZ have been found guilty of the same crime, for reporting details of the same case.

"This court makes its decisions behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny - yet this isn't necessarily what the court wants. Retired Family Court Judge Patrick Mahoney has told the Justice and Electoral Select Committee that the judiciary would be happy with whatever level of openness Parliament decided was appropriate.

"Under my Family Court (Openness of Proceedings) Amendment Bill, this never would have occurred - Dr Smith might never have had to go to bat for his constituents and subsequently been prosecuted. My Bill aims to dispel the Family Court's shroud of secrecy by opening the court, - but giving judges the discretion to protect the identity of individuals and close the court and on a case-by-case basis.

"If passed, my Bill would ensure transparency and openness in a court that currently has neither. Dr Smith's conviction simply highlights the serious problems with our Family Court - problems that should not be allowed to prevent a Member of Parliament doing what he was elected to do," Dr Newman said.

ENDS

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