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Push To Get Tough On Bail Laws

Push To Get Tough On Bail Laws

Pressure is mounting to change the law as the number of violent offences committed by criminals while on bail continues to climb.

In a rare move, justice watchdog The Sensible Sentencing Trust is hosting a cross-party forum to discuss the issue, with Corrections Minister Damien O’Connor joining Law Commissioner Warren Young and National and New Zealand First Law and Order spokesmen Simon Power and Ron Mark. Judge David Carruthers from the New Zealand Parole Board will chair the State of our Nation event.
(Hastings RSA, Tuesday, 5:30pm)

The Trust hopes the forum will draw attention to what it sees as significant failings in the justice system, specifically legislation passed in 2001 and 2002 which has seen offenders facing serious charges walk free on bail despite strong objections from police.

In a case currently before the courts, a man charged with killing a young woman was allowed to walk free and kill again on bail. Three judges denied the application but a persistent lawyer eventually found one willing to grant bail despite the seriousness of the charge. Suppression orders protect the man’s identity and his link to the two horrific deaths.

“Everything is geared up to protect the rights of the offender. At the moment the law lets judges release violent offenders into the community for months at a time while they wait for the legal system to catch up. It doesn’t take a genius to realise these career criminals will walk straight out of the court room and destroy more innocent lives,” said Trust spokesman, Garth McVicar.

The Trust believes there are two options available:

1. Amend the Bail Act to ensure any offender with a previous history of violent or sex offending is not eligible for bail.

2. Amend the Sentencing Act to ensure any violent offender, repeat offender or sex offender who commits any further offence while on bail is automatically sentenced on conviction to cumulative maximum sentences for both the new offence and the charges for which they are bailed.

Other examples of violent offences by criminals on bail:

- Convicted paedophile Graham Lesley Ashcroft, who recently stabbed a police dog in Central Hawke’s Bay, was facing a further seven charges of committing sex offences on young girls when he received bail.

- Australian man Matthew Larkin was beaten to death in an unprovoked attack in Hastings in June 2004 by two young men, one on bail for a similar offence committed only days before.


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