Monday, May 18, 2009

Missing the point... again

From today's article on the National government's attempts to overthrow centuries of civil liberties:

Reducing the number of jury trials in New Zealand would only "marginally" speed up the court system, according to the Law Society.

Lawyers yesterday hit back at claims by Justice Minister Simon Power that defence lawyers are cashing in on the criminal justice system.

They say the minister should be directing his allegations of timewasting at the police.

That's right, Simon Power, the justice minister, wants to remove trial by jury - an ancient civil liberty designed to safeguard people from false conviction - for anyone facing crimes punishable by less than three years in prison to save some money, and the problem with this is that it's not the lawyers wasting money, it's the police. To be fair, the head of the New Zealand Law Society is interviewed at the end of the article, making the point that "everything has to take second place to [a fair trial]", but it seems like too little, too late after an article on mudslinging between lawyers, the police and government.

Honestly, this story is right after the one on Christine Rankin (which I dealt with below). How is this story not about trading justice for savings? Seriously, I haven't even opened the paper to page two yet.


  1. Speaking of missing the point - Did you catch the 'poo tax' article? Haven't seen the print version, but this morning on the website the headline read 'Maori demand 'poo tax' for island dumping' however the artice itself outlines that some guy named Barry Kaye (Maybe Maori, maybe not, it doesn't say) apparently SUGGESTED (not demanded) a cash reimbursement to Local Iwi, to offset environmental damages. The Local Iwi themselves don't want the poo at all and say the money wouldn't make a difference.

    They've since changed the online headline to 'Proposed 'poo tax' for island dumping, but really, how did that get out to begin with? Idiots.

  2. Come on James,
    The courts in NZ are struggling to keep up with the current workload - it is currently a 12 month wait in the district courts and 16 in the high courts. Surely efficiencies should be looked at, 16 months of someone's life is a long time to be in limbo.

    You seem to be suggesting that a jury trial is somehow the definition of liberty. Half of the western world either does not have jury trials or has them only for very serious crimes. Is there any evidence that a jury of your peers has a better record than judges (in liberal democracies)?

    And the law society/guild is hardly an objective observer.

  3. Mr Wansbone,

    If the courts are struggling with backlogs, why not just get rid of witnesses, or trials? Obviously we wouldn't do that. What I am saying is that we should be suspicious of trading off things that have been considered (rightly or wrongly) traditional liberties to save some money - because presumably we could solve some of the backlog just with money.

    As for the efficacy of juries, it seems like they either work better or they don't. Why would we not just get rid of them if they don't work any better, rather than restricting the eligibility? If I were sentenced by a judge to three years in prison and a jury would not have convicted me, I would be rather annoyed.

  4. Don't the Europeans have trial-by-judges for sentences under 5 years? So what's the big deal? I suspect 90% of those reading this blog consider Europe the bastion of all that is good and holy in the world, ie. State control.

    And the government has a responsibility to deliver justice in a TIMELY fashion. Waiting over a year for a trial by jury is not timely.