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Victim safety must be priority if bail reform means anything

Charles Chauvel
Justice Spokesperson

27 February 2012

Victim safety should be priority if bail reform to mean anything

Labour is backing calls by Auckland’s Marceau family for a review of the bail system.

Justice spokesperson Charles Chauvel today expressed sympathy and support for the family of murdered teenager Christie Marceau, who are petitioning for a new approach to bail.

“Despite successive governments having tightened bail laws, public safety is still not guaranteed adequately by the system.

"Work still needs to be done to better protect victims, especially in cases where the victim is known to the offender, and where the potential for violence is indicated, Charles Chauvel said.

"This did not happen in Christie’s case, nor in the recent case of Helen Meads, despite significant anxiety being expressed by their families and by the police - anxiety that was ultimately borne out - that allowing the offenders to be at large could result in further tragedy.

"The current Government plans to tighten bail laws even further. The question is whether the changes mooted will make any difference, and whether they are a sustainable solution to the problem.

“The danger is that they will be a blunt instrument that will further increase remand prisoner numbers while still allowing killers out on bail,” Charles Chauvel said.

"The Marceaus are calling for annual reviews of judicial performance, with the potential for recall. While we see a number of problems with this approach, we do agree that the adequacy of the training and risk assessment tools and evidence available to judges who make bail decisions needs reviewing.

“There is room for significant improvement; there needs to be a much better appreciation of the consequences of releasing an accused person who has the real potential to commit violence.

"Because of the constitutional independence of the judiciary, making this happen is much harder than just putting yet another tightening of bail law through Parliament.

“But if we want the system to work better to protect public safety, we need to look more widely than just the provisions of the Act.

“The Marceaus should be thanked for bringing this to public attention. What’s needed now is meaningful reform,” Charles Chauvel said.

ENDS

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