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One Law For All Shouldn't Allow Masked Accusers

One Law For All Shouldn't Allow Masked Accusers

Tuesday 26 Oct 2004

Stephen Franks - Press Releases - Crime & Justice

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today called on Attorney General Margaret Wilson to tell us whether she will uphold the fundamental principle that a court must be able to observe demeanour and body language in assessing the credibility of witnesses.

"No one should have to face masked witnesses - whether they're Muslim, Ku Klux Klan or traffic cops in sunglasses," Mr Franks said.

"I can understand a prosecutor's desire to win the current Auckland case, but the Government should ensure that the court hears argument in the public interest.

"In July, I called on Ms Wilson to appoint an independent lawyer to fully argue the public interest. Instead, her officials have taken unusual steps to overwhelm the defence, with inches of paper dumped on them on Friday.

"The Attorney General pleaded sub-judice in response to me. In fact, the outcome of a particular case, and the question of what the law should be for the future, can be separated - indeed, Ms Wilson has not hesitated in the past to try to tell judges they should not apply current law because she is thinking of changing it, as in the seabed and foreshore case.

"I called on the Attorney General to include in the draft Evidence Bill that she's been circulating for more than a year, a requirement that the judge and jury be able to make eye contact with accusers. Eye contact has to be more than shadowy eyeballs peering from a shroud. She said the Government does not intend to pre-empt the decision of the court by including such a provision in the Bill at this stage.

"Transport Minister Paul Swain should also now clarify whether he will ensure that all New Zealanders are under the same law. He should tell us how many Muslims have been issued licences bearing their photographs under anonymous shrouds," Mr Franks said.

ENDS


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