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Jones decries Maori Party condoning body snatching

Shane Jones
Member of Maori Caucus

18 March 2008 Media Statement
Jones decries Maori Party condoning body snatching

Calls by the Maori Party for whanau, not the Government, to resolve body snatching incidents have been questioned by the Labour Maori caucus acting-chair Shane Jones.

He is referring to comments by Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples who is advocating the law around body-snatching should not change and, that whanau, not the coroners should decide what should be done.

“We need to consult Maori over this issue. We need to hold a summit Hui with church leaders, kaumatuas, and others to discuss this issue,” said Mr Jones.

“Body-snatching is becoming an increasing problem. It is causing families’ soul-destroying heartbreak, and for the Maori Party just to say that we keep things as they are are just isn’t right.

“We’re a far more cosmopolitan country now and we have to respect all people, but most of all we must respect the wishes of the dead and their immediate families.”

Under current law a person cannot be charged with theft of a body as there is no property in a human body, although charges can be laid over the indignity to a dead human body.

However, the taking of a casket can be deemed as theft and there's also the possibility of an offence over the indignity caused to a dead human body.

A law change has been floated by acting chief coroner Wallace Bain which would give coroners exclusive authority over bodies in the case of all deaths.

Justice Minister Annette King, will be discussing the issue of updating burial law in May when she meets with the Law Commission.

“The Ministry of Justice is also examining the issue and will advise Ms King on possible changes to the law,” he said.

“This is a complex issue and although a law change may not stop people from body-snatching it could save thousands of dollars in legal fees for whanau involved,” Mr Jones said.


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