A high conviction rate is good, not bad

The Herald reports:

The rate of convictions is the highest in at least 35 years, prompting concerns from lawyers and a politician about the justice system’s soundness.

Statistics New Zealand figures reveal more than 83 per cent of adults prosecuted in court last year were convicted. The rate has risen in 10 of the past 11 years, and in the past two years has been the highest since 1980, the earliest data available.

Former New Zealand Law Society president Jonathan Temm said despite appearing to indicate a healthy justice system, the conviction rate was actually too high, with people being convicted incorrectly.

“It’s heading the wrong way. Our level should be constantly around the 75 per cent mark, and anything over 80 per cent is a reflection that people are pleading guilty to things that in the past they would not have been convicted of,” Mr Temm said.

I disagree.

In a perfect world the conviction rate of guilty would be 100% and the false conviction rate of innocents would be 0%. I don’t think one in four people charged are innocent, and that 75% is the “correct” conviction rate.

The rise in conviction rate coincides with the lowest number of people going through court nationwide since at least 1980. The figure has dropped almost 40 per cent since 2009 – from 127,000 prosecutions to fewer than 77,000 nationwide.

Labour’s police spokesman Stuart Nash said he was concerned about the sharp decrease. “It says to me that the police just haven’t got the resources to catch the bad guys.

Fewer prosecutions is a good thing if there is less crime. And the Victims of Crime survey shows a 30% drop in crime from 2008 to 2013. This is a scientific survey of 7,000 NZers, so is not influenced by Police resources, prosecution decisions, whether crime is reported etc.



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