Tuesday, 7 August 2012

We’re shifting those bloody deck chairs again

While it is true you can prove anything you like with statistics; plain ordinary numbers are a little harder to argue with if they are presented in context.

One such number that caught my eye this week and nearly caused it to pop out was the number of people who committed criminal offences (additional to those they were already facing) while on bail. I knew it would be a lot because many of us have banged our heads against the wall when yet another limp wristed judge allows yet another crazed psychopath the freedom to commit even more heinous crimes against our society.

However I was not ready for the fact that over the period 2006-2010 inclusive, almost 70,000 such slimeballs committed new crimes while on bail and 44 of those involved either murder or manslaughter. That’s an average of 14,000 bail breaching criminals each year, nine of whom (on average) kill somebody while they are on bail.

A further flick through the figures which Granny Herald obtained under the Official Information Act reveals a total of more than 7000 offences that could generally fall under the banner of assault; over 1100 involving, such acts as kidnapping, harassment and threatening behaviour and a further 763 sexual offences. Just think how many people have had their lives ruined by these poor judicial decisions.

It is important to remember that in 2008 the bail laws were ‘tightened’, which goes to prove once more that it is the judges that need to be changed and not the laws. Having said that; the excuse that is often tendered by judges is that they are bound by such Acts as the Sentencing Act and the Bail Act. This is correct of course, but too often they are not fully using the powers available to them under either Act.

The Bail Act definitely needs some tweaking though, and don’t hold your breath for Judith Collin’s much heralded Bail Amendment Act to rectify that. A look through that proposed piece of legislations uncovers only one clause that could realistically be called an improvement in keeping the public safe. That sole beacon (or should I say single Beehive match power) of hope is what is proposed as the new section 9A in the Bail Act. “In deciding whether or not to grant bail to a defendant to whom this section applies or to allow the defendant to go at large, the need to protect the safety of the public and, where appropriate, the need to protect the safety of any particular person or persons are the primary considerations.

That sounds promising, but don’t get too excited because apart from that the remainder of the changes are so insignificant as to be almost invisible. The basic thrust of the Act still seems to be to avoid holding anyone in custody.

A casual reading of the Bail Act can be misleading because there are a number of sections headed Restrictions on bail if...... Each one of these begins by listing offences that qualify the defendant under this section to have their option of bail restricted, until you read down a few subsections and find the following No defendant to whom this section applies may be granted bail or allowed to go at large except by order of a High Court Judge or a District Court Judge.” This is of course a no-brainer and we all figured out that neither I nor you nor the dustman could actually grant bail. We are further enlightened in each of these sections by the following subsection: “No defendant to whom this section applies may be granted bail or allowed to go at large unless the defendant satisfies the Judge that bail or remand at large should be granted.”

That is also no surprise to anyone, but the significance of it is that for every clause that appears to restrict the right to bail these two sub-sections are added which opens a door we are supposed to have been fooled into thinking had just closed. The bright shiny new ‘future’ Bill sponsored by Little Bo Tox removes none of these so it effectively will bring no change at all.

There is still a default situation for those under 20 to be granted bail unless a really good case can be made for not doing so. I can only assume that in either instance they would have to make a really, really good case considering how easily Judge David McNaughton found it to release Akshay Anand Chand on bail after he had kidnapped and threatened the life of Christie Marceau. McNaughton’s clumsy act led directly to the death of Christie Marceau at the hands of Chand.

Much of the PR associated with the new Bail Amendment Act centres on what is being pitched as a fundamental change surrounding the granting of bail to persons charged with serious violent or sexual offences. The amendment means that instead of the cops having to show why someone should be held in custody, the accused has to satisfy the judge why he should be allowed out. The track record of our judges so far doesn’t really fill me with hope based on this wimpy bit of legal verbiage and I am sure it will be business as usual.

So why do judges grant bail to dangerous bastards and put us al at risk? Because they can and there ain’t nothin’ we can do about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment