Bridges, Graham and Beaumont

January 16th, 2009 at 8:02 am by David Farrar

Today’s three MPs in the Herald:

New MP Simon Bridges wants New Zealanders to reconsider the right to silence for those accused of serious and sexual crimes and to trust juries with more information.

Mr Bridges, a former Crown prosecutor in Tauranga for eight years, used his maiden speech to challenge parts of the legal system, saying the accused’s right not to face questioning in cases such as rape put victims who had to face often gruelling cross-examinations in an uneven position.

“Martin Luther King jnr once said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. In many trials I have seen injustices – indeed manifest indignities – performed on the weakest in our society as court rules work against them … in short, juries need to be trusted with more information and victims of sex crimes treated more evenly when compared to the accused.”

Mr Bridges told the Herald the question of whether an accused should face questioning was particularly relevant for sexual crimes or crimes against children where the victims themselves faced often gruelling cross-examination.

“I’m a reasonably experienced rape trial lawyer and I can think of specific women cross-examined for days, while the accuseds just sat on their hands and didn’t give evidence. There have been acquittals where I am sure factually that the accused was guilty.”

The right to silence has long been considered fundamental to the criminal law ethos of”innocent until proven guilty”.

Mr Bridges said he believed the law should be”rebalanced”and he intended to work on the issue as an MP.

He said juries should also be trusted with more information, such as previous convictions, in some cases as the current laws could obstruct a fair verdict.

Not sure I agree with Simon, but he makes a strong case about the unfairness of victims being cross-examined for days on end, and the accussed not having to give evidence at all. I’m more sympathethic though to his thoughts on juries having more information.

Former diplomat and academic – most recently he lectured in international law at Canterbury and Victoria universities. Was involved in NZ establishing a nuclear-free zone, including fronting on it as a diplomat before the UN in Geneva and New York.

In his own words:
“We are drawing down on Earth’s natural resources, borrowing forward on the human heritage, irretrievably encroaching on our children’s right to inherit the Earth in a natural and sustainable state.”

It will be interesting to see what influence Kennedy has on the Greens foreign policy, as his views are presumably somewhat different from Keith Locke’s.

Says her late father Ron takes credit for teaching her how to speak out and fostered debate, but also sowed the seeds of feminism in her when he dismissed her wish to follow in his footsteps and become a mechanic as “unsuitable for a girl”. She was chairwoman of the Melville High School Student Council, worked as a cleaner and was in the Cleaners’ Union.

In her own words:
“In the course of the campaign I saw the huge number of people who work for community good in sports groups, marae, in youth groups, in community safety groups, in churches and in community development initiatives. They are ambitious people. It is important to reflect on the meaning of the word ‘ambition’ because recently it has been used by many only in the context of the individual. It is more than that. I consider myself ambitious and have always wanted to use my skills in roles that challenge me but my real ambition is in wanting to make a difference for others.”

Beaumont was reasonably well regarded as CTU Secretary but her loss of Maungakiekie to National means she is reliant on keeping a high list place.

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18 Responses to “Bridges, Graham and Beaumont”

  1. billyborker (1,102 comments) says:

    Cannot agree that juries should know about prior convictions. This is usually trotted out whenever the Crown loses a high profile case because they had insufficient evidence.

    Justice requires each case to be tried on its evidence and its evidence alone. This is nothing more than an attempt at guilt by association.

    Becuase, as an example, Brad Shipton has been convicted of rape, does that make him guilty of the next rape in his vicinity? No.

    Because Billy Borker has never been convicted of rape, does that mean Billy Borker could never be guilty of rape? No.

    If a charge of rape is to be laid against Brad Shipton or Billy Borker it must be considered only on the evidence of that charge, never on anything prior.

    Protecting rape victims can be achieved without reducing the rights of rape accused. For example, just as the law does not currently allow consideration ofthe accused past, we could amend so that the complainant’s past is also not up for grabs, unless materially relevant to the case at hand.

    We must stop punishing the innocent to appease the victims.

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  2. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Beaumont and Graham- two typically out there commie ideologues. No damn idea at all of reality.

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  3. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    Ordinarily, I might agree with Bridges but the problem is false allegations of rape/sexual abuse. If every alleged victim told the truth, there would little problem. But each year we witness many false allegations of rape, the consequences of which can be devastating for the wrongly accused/convicted. What does Bridges think should happen to those people (invariably women) who falsely claim they have been raped?

    Surely, the best way to improve the conviction rate for rape – which I suspect is behind Bridges’ announcement – is to provide the Court with high-quality evidence, in particular forensic or other supporting evidence. Taking a case to trial that is no more than he said, she said, is not the way to go. Juries need more information but they need accurate and relevant information, not innuendo about the accused. That is likely to lead to unsafe convictions.

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  4. Glutaemus Maximus (2,207 comments) says:

    Don’t forget that the Jury system was introduced to be a balance to the Feudal powers of the Lord/Laird.

    The original concept was that the accused was to be ajudged by peers, and more importantly neighbours.

    The concept of prior convictions not being declared or brought into ‘play’ is actually against the original intention.

    Only because the Jury members would normally know the accused by local association.

    As for people ‘crying wolf’ over sexual assault, especially rape. What to do?

    I have no idea, as most strategies are likely to rebound with problems of getting proper convictions.

    My only idea is that their names should be made Public if they admit their own perjury.

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  5. Graeme Edgeler (3,275 comments) says:

    we could amend so that the complainant’s past is also not up for grabs, unless materially relevant to the case at hand.

    The complainant’s past is not up for grabs (except for their past with the accused).

    See section 44 of the Evidence Act:

    44. Evidence of sexual experience of complainants in sexual cases

    (1) In a sexual case, no evidence can be given and no question can be put to a witness relating directly or indirectly to the sexual experience of the complainant with any person other than the defendant, except with the permission of the Judge.

    (2) In a sexual case, no evidence can be given and no question can be put to a witness that relates directly or indirectly to the reputation of the complainant in sexual matters.

    (3) In an application for permission under subsection (1), the Judge must not grant permission unless satisfied that the evidence or question is of such direct relevance to facts in issue in the proceeding, or the issue of the appropriate sentence, that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to exclude it.

    (4) The permission of the Judge is not required to rebut or contradict evidence given under subsection (1).

    (5) In a sexual case in which the defendant is charged as a party and cannot be convicted unless it is shown that another person committed a sexual offence against the complainant, subsection (1) does not apply to any evidence given, or any question put, that relates directly or indirectly to the sexual experience of the complainant with that other person.

    (6) This section does not authorise evidence to be given or any question to be put that could not be given or put apart from this section.

    ref: http://legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2006/0069/latest/DLM393635.html

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  6. TimG_Oz (924 comments) says:

    I’m not in NZ, so I can’t judge the feeling. I would have expected that Keith Locke is a massive embarassment to the Greens, and his actions definitely undermine their environmental policies. Is this the case or do they see him as some kind of hero?

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  7. baxter (893 comments) says:

    Simon BRIDGES is a voice of reason and offers a glimmer of hope in the fight (if there is one) against crime. Good for him in his argument against the majority of his profession who have a vested interest in making sure he doesn’t get his way. My only criticism is that in my view the right to silence is rediculous in this day and age and should be dispensed with altogether…I hope Greg O’Conner throws the weight of the Police Association in his favour.
    ……….The other two members seem of little use and will be dedicated to enlarging the unwieldy bureaucratic mess that the incoming government is faced with.

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  8. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    Graeme, you wrote that the complainant’s past is not up for grabs (except for their past with the accused).

    But clearly her past is up for grabs where it goes to the heart of her reliability as a witness. In the Louise Nicholas case, I understand that the defence was able to bring up the fact that she had made a prior false allegation of rape.

    The prosecution tried to disclose similar fact evidence at the Shipton et al trials, but the problem was that the Crown decided (in its wisdom?) to also try Clint Rickards. The Court decided that Rickards would be unfairly tainted by evidence of his co-accused’s rape convictions, so said that the similar fact evidence was not admisible. This point seemed to be lost on those who criticised the fact that jurors didn’t get to hear such evidence.

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  9. Graeme Edgeler (3,275 comments) says:

    But clearly her past is up for grabs where it goes to the heart of her reliability as a witness. In the Louise Nicholas case, I understand that the defence was able to bring up the fact that she had made a prior false allegation of rape.

    Not necessarily. – it certainly wouldn’t always be the case. I’m not aware of the detail of the Nicholas case, but it would depend on the facts of the case. Previous unsubstantiated claims of rape will *not* always be allowed in, even where the defence is that the complaintant is lying. That said, I imagine a prior false allegation is more likely to be allowed in than a prior unsubstantiated allegation.

    There could be all sorts of reasons – if the complainant’s story came to prominence in a media interview in which they themselves made the prior matter public, the standard to overcome would be lower, for example (part of the rationale behind the rule is to protect victims from prying and publicity, thereby making others more likely to come forward, lest their past also by pried into and publicised; if the information wasn’t pried, and the publicity was voluntary, this concern is lessened).

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  10. calendar girl (1,203 comments) says:

    I hope that the seemingly able Mr Bridges is willing to lend his professional experience towards wider reforms of a criminal justice system that is, frankly, in some disarray. Cases are taking far too long to come to final trial, whether through delays caused by the Crown or by defence counsel.

    Most importantly, however, jury selection has become a modern-day farce. We all know that anyone of basic intelligence can successfully lodge an application for exemption from jury service on fairly self-serving grounds. Add to that the use of numerous objections by counsel on both sides, without any need for justification, and the common outcome is a jury that is unduly slanted towards the poorly-educated end of the spectrum. (Wear a business suit and an objection is almost automatic.) Such juries are not representative of a cross-section of the community. The situation is created willingly and condoned both by the Courts bureaucracy and by the barristers who are supposedly servants of the Courts. Our present style of jury selection does not serve justice well, and needs meaningful reform.

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  11. big bruv (13,552 comments) says:

    Calendar girl

    You are so right, last year I served on two juries, although I went along dressed in a suit I somehow made the jury both times.

    When we were sent back to elect a foreman the group almost unanimously selected me simply because I was wearing a suit and tie.
    One or two who served with me were simply incapable of understanding what was going on, it was not a particularly difficult case but these two just could not grasp it, when it came to deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused they simply voted with the pack.

    It makes me shudder to think that people like that could decide my fate one day.

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  12. billyborker (1,102 comments) says:

    baxter (698) Vote: 1 2 Says:

    January 16th, 2009 at 12:14 pm
    Simon BRIDGES is a voice of reason and offers a glimmer of hope in the fight (if there is one) against crime. Good for him in his argument against the majority of his profession who have a vested interest in making sure he doesn’t get his way. My only criticism is that in my view the right to silence is rediculous in this day and age and should be dispensed with altogether

    Curious to know why you are opposed to the right to silence and how, if it was abolished, the new law could be applied? Matchsticks under the finger nails?

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  13. big bruv (13,552 comments) says:

    Are you a bit worried Billy?

    How I would have loved to have seen the corrupt former PM cross examined in a court of law..

    “So Mrs Clark, are you really telling the court that you had no idea the vehicle was travelling at 180km per hour?”

    “Mrs Clark, did you paint the piece of art you signed?”…”then why did you try and pass it off as your own work?”

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  14. Graeme Edgeler (3,275 comments) says:

    Curious to know why you are opposed to the right to silence and how, if it was abolished, the new law could be applied? Matchsticks under the finger nails?

    I’m a supporter of the right to silence (and the right to the presumption of innocence), but abolishing the right to silence would be very easy to accomplish, without resorting to torture. It would go something like this:

    “… Members of the jury, you have heard the evidence of the complainant, but you have not heard from the defendant in this case. During your deliberations, when deciding whether the defendent is guilty or not guilty of the charges before you, you may wish to reflect upon the fact that the defendant refused to give evidence. What you make of that fact is up to you; you should not find the defendant guilty solely on the basis of his refusal to give evidence before you, but you are entitled to look upon the defendant’s refusal to answer the questions put to him as evidence, which, combined with the other evidence you have heard, might indicate guilt. What weight, if any, that you choose to give to this matter, and to all the other evidence you have heard is entirely a matter for you …”

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  15. baxter (893 comments) says:

    The point of a Police Inquiry and the Justice system should have as it’s goal the discovery of the truth, not the procedure by which a criminal can avoid the consequences of his crime….The suggestion by Graeme EDGELER would be an acceptable and sensible compromise and I think close to the English procedure. The English have progressed their procedure while ours has remained manacled in their past.

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  16. Rex Widerstrom (5,327 comments) says:

    Oooo yes, let’s remove the right to silence. I’m considering a new career, and manufacturing testicle electrodes could become a growth industry in NZ if Mr Bridges gets his way it seems.

    Sarcasm aside, Graeme Edgeler’s suggestion is of course how it’d probably work. At present the judge advises the jury that they “may not draw any inference” from an accused’s failure to testify, a law change would probably mean that s/he could. But if anyone thinks juries don’t draw such inferences anyway, they know bugger all about human nature.

    But saying the defendant “refused” to give evidence is a bit misleading. Often they’re advised not to by their defence lawyer purely as a tactical ploy. I was involved in one case where the defendant over-ruled his lawyer, took the stand, and duly lost his temper, rather spectacularly, with the prosecutor. Though the charges he faced had nothing whatsoever to do with anger or violence, that was enough to prejudice the jury in what was a totally circumstantial case and he was found guilty.

    And as for alleged victims of sexual offences… if they’ve made complaints before, and especially if the those complaints have not resulted in convictions, then I think that part of a complainant’s history ought to be entered into the record as a matter of course. Again, the jury can draw its own inferences.

    calendar girl’s point about the jury pool is also an important one, and in fact some states of Australia are looking at tightening up the loopholes which allow almost anyone to avoid jury service. As a state Attorney General said recently, juries are now composed almost entirely of people who don’t work for one reason or another – primarily the unemployed and the retired – who are hardly “peers” of most accused. Of course the easy answer would be to remunerate jurors at a realistic rate… it remains to be seen whether governments’ commitment to justice extends to actually paying for it.

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  17. Rex Widerstrom (5,327 comments) says:

    Glutaemus Maximus says:

    As for people ‘crying wolf’ over sexual assault, especially rape. What to do?

    Provided the allegation was made with malice (and most, but not all, are) then a prison term exactly equal to that which would have been served had the wronfully accused been found guilty. And some proceeds of crime legislation allowing for seizure of the accuser’s assets to pay compensation to the accused.

    What’s good for the goose…

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  18. Graeme Edgeler (3,275 comments) says:

    But saying the defendant “refused” to give evidence is a bit misleading. Often they’re advised not to by their defence lawyer purely as a tactical ploy.

    At present, yes. If the law was changed, however, it might be more reasonable to refer to it as “refused”. There’s obviously a couple of ways it could go in court under a potential law change: the defendant might just have the option of refusing to answer questions, to be followed by the jury instruction; or they might have to go into the witness box and have questions put to them (which they might then refuse to answer, followed by the jury instruction).

    Provided the allegation was made with malice (and most, but not all, are) then a prison term exactly equal to that which would have been served had the wronfully accused been found guilty.

    There’s surely a difference between someone who lays a false (even malicious) complaint with the police, and one who carries that through to a court case?

    And some proceeds of crime legislation allowing for seizure of the accuser’s assets to pay compensation to the accused.

    What’s good for the goose…

    Not really proceeds of the crime, are they?

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