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Conflict Between Name Suppression Law and Bill

Conflict Between Name Suppression Law and Victim's Bill

Friday, August 24 2001
Stephen Franks
Press Releases -- Justice, Law & Order


The Victims' Rights Bill should stop the courts using a popular excuse for name suppression, says ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks. The Bill was reported back by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee last night.

"In the past the courts have abetted the efforts of officials and politicians to slide dangerous criminals back into defenceless communities, by suppressing release details.

"Some victims at least will now have the right to be told of the expected date of release. And as a result of ACT pressure in the Select Committee, they will know the conditions of parole.

"In theory this should largely end the practice of suppressing details of offenders in case it complicates plans to 'rehabilitate' them in 'the community'. If the victim has to know, surely it defeats the argument that the offender's interest in secrecy outweighs the community's right to know.

"But we could not persuade the Government to deal with more serious concerns of victims.

"There is no duty to warn a victim when a paroled prisoner has breached terms and conditions of parole, for example by failing to report. Kylie Jones' murderer, Hotene, had not reported to his probation officer for some time yet no effective steps were taken.

"Desperate probation officers have told me that breaches of parole and of other non-custodial sentences are rife - with little effective sanctioning.

"There is a new right to be informed of the escape of a criminal and to be told if a criminal is charged for a breach. But the government refused to ensure the victim was warned as soon as a prisoner breached a parole condition, even if the condition related to the safety or security of the victim.

"When most parole breaches go completely unpunished, the first a victim may know about the offender thumbing his nose at the law again, could be when the face looms through the window or the safety latch is being burst off.

"The government said rules more effective would be too big a burden. 'We won't necessarily know when conditions are breached as our record keeping only shows up convictions'. Another argument was: 'What is the point when the victim doesn't have an involvement in the punishment for these parole breach offences anyway?'

"The bill gives a right to be informed when a dangerous mental patient escapes, but no right to be consulted about whether and on what conditions, they should be let out. And in response to fears of mad people out on leave, the Bill says the victim is to be told only about the 'first unescorted leave of absence'.

"Mr Goff's Ministry of Justice officials were obdurate - even against ACT's of a wider duty to warn whenever there was good reason to expect the victim to be concerned because of the nature of the crime or the parole breach.

"ACT's Criminal Justice policy will ensure that victims' interests are the central issue in criminal justice," Stephen 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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