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Floodgates Open For Prisoner Lawsuits

Floodgates Open For Prisoner Lawsuits

Monday 6 Sep 2004
Stephen Franks
Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

Legal action planned against the Government, over the treatment of some Auckland remand prisoners, shows that the trickle of lawsuits will rapidly grow to a torrent, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"The signs were there years ago, when the judges invented damages compensation for breach of the Bill of Rights Act. Parliament had debated the Bill at length, and made no provision for damages enforcement," Mr Franks said.

"Neither Justice Minister Phil Goff nor his National predecessors should be surprised by this, or future, actions. Despite warnings by lawyers and prominent academics, neither National nor Labour passed legislation to confine the Bill of Rights Act to its intended boundaries.

"Labour is doubly responsible - not only did it fail to nip this problem in the bud when it had the chance, but it prevented others from doing so. And it was Labour that voted down my amendments to this year's Corrections Act, that gives prisoners more opportunities to sue.

"Political correctness has left our prison management at a loss for effective low level discipline options. There will be a constant temptation for conscientious jailers to mis-use powers to maintain order - but this should be dealt with by independent investigators and complaint procedures, with penalties for the jailers who breach their own rules.

"With the courts instead inventing damages as a sanction, the punishment falls on innocent taxpayers. It becomes a windfall for scumbags who are lucky to come under a justice system that doesn't treat them as they treated their victims in the first place.

"Even the judges who invented these damages awards must know how unprincipled they are. How does the award relate to anything that a prisoner has `lost'?

"I wonder whether we wouldn't get many volunteers for `mis-treatment' at the rate of $500 tax-free per week all expenses paid. After all they have to be in there anyway, so what's the loss? They should be protected by sound rules enforced with integrity, not lawyers hunting windfall bounties," 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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