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Provocation defence should be consigned to history

Hon Lianne Dalziel
Justice Spokesperson
Charles Chauvel
Associate Justice Spokesperson

22 July 2009 Media Statement

Provocation defence needs to be consigned to history

The partial defence of provocation is an anachronistic relic of New Zealand’s legal past and must be repealed, Labour’s Justice Spokespersons Lianne Dalziel and Charles Chauvel said today.

The Crimes (Abolition of Defence of Provocation) Amendment Bill was submitted to the Private Members bill ballot for the first time today.

Lianne Dalziel and Charles Chauvel said they had been careful to ensure they were not drawn into a public debate on the substance of two high profile trials involving the provocation plea which coincidentally commenced at the time the Bill was ready for submission to the ballot.

“These two cases were not the motivation for drafting the Bill, but they both highlight the serious defects in the defence,” Lianne Dalziel said.

“The entire country has been appalled at what the families of the victims have had to listen to in these two cases.”

Charles Chauvel said the family of Ronald Brown had to experience the trauma of knowing the picture painted by Ferdinand Ambach was accepted by the jury who only heard one side of the story.

Lianne Dalziel said this was the main problem with the defence --- the evidence as to what allegedly incited a homicidal loss of self control is entirely in the hands of the person who has silenced forever the only other witness to the events.

“In the Sophie Elliott case her family sat through days of Clayton Weatherston giving his version of events that in the end the jury didn’t believe stood up.”

Charles Chauvel said the issues had been extensively canvassed in the Law Commission Report on the Partial Defence of provocation. “Issues of provocation can and should be addressed in weighing other aggravating and mitigating factors as part of the sentencing exercise,” Charles Chauvel said.

Lianne Dalziel said the Shadow Leader of the House will be canvassing other parties to see if they would not object to her seeking leave to introduce the Crimes (Abolition of Defence of Provocation) Amendment Bill. “If that is not successful, I will resubmit it for the next ballot,” Lianne Dalziel said.

Labour’s spokesperson for Victims Rights Lynne Pillay said totally she supports the Bill as a result of deep concerns about the impact on the families of the victims having to listen to a defence that cannot be refuted.


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