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News Worthy: More free without trial under Labour

News Worthy
2 May 2008 - No. 246

More walk free without trial under Labour

When top cop and crime buster Detective Inspector Steve Rutherford recently retired he made a number of comments about an increased focus on the rights of arrested people rather than the prosecution of the guilty. That focus centres on evidence disclosure by the prosecution and issues under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Stays of prosecution are running at the highest level since Labour was elected in 1999. These stays of prosecutions are the direct result of worsening delays in the court system.

In 2006/07 there were 18 stays of prosecution, more than half of them caused by systemic reasons. This compares with just seven in 2005/06. And 2007/08 is shaping to be just as bad, with 12 in the first eight months indicating it will be at least the second highest year since 1999.

The latest figures show big increases in the number of criminal trials outstanding and in median trial waiting times:

241 criminal trials are outstanding in the High Court, and 1,437 in district courts. The median trial waiting time in the High Court was 290 days, and 256 in district courts. The average wait for a trial from committal to scheduled date was 283 days in the district court and 305 days in the High Court. At September last year there were 18,682 cases on hold because defendants had absconded while on bail or had simply not turned up.

The longer the waiting list for trials, the more people are walking away without trial because they are not being tried on time.

In an ironic twist, it was Phil Goff, a former Justice Minister and the present Corrections Minister, who said in 1995: 'It is a scandal that we have a system that has so broken down that we have those delays in hearing cases, and we have people who, in all probability, would have been found guilty but the charges against them have been dismissed.’

Labour ramps up tax-funded advertisements in election year

The controversy swirling around the Electoral Finance Act and its impact on the democratic process continues. The Government is taking every opportunity to exploit its advantage by utilising taxpayer money to woo voters in the coming election.

Television viewers will have sensed that the amount of taxpayer-funded advertising is on the increase and there is clear data to show that sense is a reality.

Figures from the advertising industry's rate card establish that the Government booked at least $8 million worth of advertising in March 2008, compared with $6 million in 2007.

Looking back at March advertising figures for the past six years, the biggest Government advertising spends came in 2005 and 2008 - election years.

The reason the Labour president said (at the Labour Party Congress) that using departmental handouts as part of Labour's re-election campaign was 'a damn good idea' was obviously because the party is already doing it.

Government advertising spend by rate card - March '03-'08

March 2003 $3,235,752

March 2004 $4,096,347

March 2005 $7,922,172

March 2006 $7,188,466

March 2007 $6,147,948

March 2008 $8,098,723

Source: Nielsen Media Research

Political Quote of the Week

"The secret of a leader lies in the tests he has faced over the whole course of his life and the habit of action he develops in meeting those tests." Gail Sheehy - American writer and lecturer

Dr Richard Worth

National Party MP


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