Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

Another useless law?

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The latest “bright idea” from this government…

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New law to protect sex and violence victims

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Oh yes. Because other forms of Protection Orders work so wonderfully well, they don’t even need to be enforced…

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Ignored protection orders 'nightmare'

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Ignored protection orders 'nightmare'

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More breaching protection orders

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It might help if this government instructed the police to enforce current protection orders, before embarking on new laws which may turn out just as ineffectual as the current system.

Unless, of course, this is all simply another election-year gimmick from National and this new law will be quietly ignored after 20 September?

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References

Dominion Post: New law to protect sex and violence victims

Wairarapa Times-Age: Ignored protection orders ‘nightmare’

Timaru Herald: Editorial – Order gave no protection

Manwatu Standard: More breaching protection orders

Other blogposts

The Daily Blog: Children Murdered in Dunedin – Protection Order Breaches and Death Threats Ignored by Police

 


 

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Vote and be the change

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 June 2014.

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Purchasing “justice” on the New Zealand open market…

8 March 2014 3 comments

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Timeline

19 November 2010: An explosion at Pike River Mine, on the West Coast, kills 29 miners.

10 November 2011:  The Department of Labour  lays 25 charges against Pike River Coal Limited (in receivership);VLI Drilling Pty Limited (Valley Longwall),  and Peter William Whittall.

31 July 2012: Valley Longwall International (VLI) pleads guilty in the Greymouth District Court to three health and safety charges and on 26 October is fined $46,800. Pike River Coal’s  receivers enter no plea and a year later are fined and order to make payments to the families. PRC did not pay the fine and made only a minimal payment to the victim’s families.

25 October 2012: Peter Whittall enters not guilty pleas.

30 October 2012:  A  Royal Commission of Inquiry concludes and presents a report to the Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson.

5 November 2012: Royal Commission’s report made public and   Kate Wilkinson resigns as Minister of Labour.

10 December 2012: “Prime Minister John Key will personally apologise to the families of the Pike River 29 after a Royal Commission report blamed the Government for lax oversight of the mine.” (Source)

16 October 2013: Peter Whittall’s lawyer, Stuart Grieve QC,writes secretly to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) suggesting that  in ‘‘advance of the $3.41 million being made available, it is proposed [with precise terms to be agreed] that  …  the Ministry will not proceed with the charges laid against Mr Whittall by advising the Court that no evidence will be offered in support of any of the charges.’’

12 December 2013: Judge Jane Farish drops all charges against Peter Whittall saying, ‘‘Some people may believe this is Mr Whittall buying his way out of a prosecution, but I can tell you it’s not.’’ Peter Whittall agrees to pay compensation of $3.41 million to the families of the dead Pike River miners.

27 February 2014: Stuart Grieve’s secret letter to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is made public under an OIA request.

Denials

 ‘‘Some people may believe this is Mr Whittall buying his way out of a prosecution, but I can tell you it’s not.’’ –  Judge Jane Farish

‘‘It arrived by Stuart Grieve, nobody asked if they were prepared to offer money – they offered money. Very careful legal advice was taken as to whether it was proper to take this into account at all. We got clear legal advice that we should take it into account, and it was one, but only one, of that factors, and not the predominant factor in the decision that was taken.’’- Geoffrey Podger, CEO, WorkSafe NZ

‘‘I wish to make it very clear, again, that there was no such arrangement between the defence and prosecution.’’ – Brett Murray, General Manager, Worksafe high hazards

Stuart Grieve: “This letter didn’t just come out of the blue. That’s not how it happened. Although that is perhaps the impression that seems to have been given by what I’ve read read, that Worksafe chief executive said that the letter just arrived, and we offered money. That’s not how it happened at all. The [letter] needs to be looked at in context. Over a period starting from about, quite early last year, the solicitors for the defendent, Mr Whittle, and I, were getting disclosure from  MBIE that very quickly revealed that they had, there were  significant problems with the electronic disclosure and then that in turn revealed that there were significant problems with the way  the investigation had been  carried out because a lot of relevant materials stored on computers operated by all sorts  of employees of Pike [River Mine] had not been recovered or retained and a lot of that would well have, could well have been relevent to the defence. There were also significant problems with the evidential aspects of the case.”

Mary Wilson then asked, if the case was looking so bad, if the evidence was looking so poor, what was the advantage in paying $3.41 million to get the charges dropped?

“As a result of all these difficulties, I mean the trial was going to be a long one anyway, but these difficulties which would have had to be contested in court would have made the, on our assessment, the trial would’ve, could have lasted anything between  four to six months. And it was going to be horrendously expensive. If this trial had proceeded and the ministry had failed, the families would’ve got nothing. As it stands now, the families ended up getting the reparation that had been ordered by the judge against the company, which was of course in receivership.”

Mary Wilson pointed out to Grieve that the directors hadn’t been prepared to pay compensation, unless Mr Whittle wasn’t charged.

“Well, look,  all I can say to you is that the money was offered , the charges were dismissed, but the suggestion that it was a backroom deal, is just quite wrong. This was not something that was just agreed by the prosecution. It was at the Court hearing when the charges were dismissed. The Prosecution said that it was considered on principle and conventional basis in accordance with the prosecution guidelines. It had gone, as we understand it, we were told it  was going to be considered by the solicitor-general, so that it went to, you know, significantly high up, in [the] Crown Law office. You know, to say that it was just a back room deal, sort of, is a criticism that’s easily made, but we were told from  the outset that it was going to be considered by the Crown on a principled basis and as I understand it and the submissions to the Court confirm it, that’s how it was done.” – Stuart Grieve QC, interviewed by Mary Wilson, on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint

Conclusions

  1. A secret deal was offered by  solicitor, Stuart Grieve, on 16 October 2013, that in return for payment of $3.41 million dollars by Peter Whittle, that the Crown would drop all charges against Whittle.
  2. On 12 December 2013, Judge Jane Farish dropped all charges against Peter Whittall, and an agreed sum of $3.41 million was offered by Peter Whittle as “compensation”.
  3. The secret deal was finally made public on 27 February.
  4. According to Grieve, the Solicitor General was aware of the deal; “It had gone, as we understand it, we were told it  was going to be considered by the solicitor-general, so that it went to, you know, significantly high up…”
  5. Denials that this was not a “secret back room deal” fly in the face of what looks very obviously a secret back-room deal.

Questions

  1. Is this going to be the new ‘norm’ for the justice system in this country – that a person can buy their way out of a conviction?
  2. Will the government be publishing a tariff for what “compensation” is demanded in payment, according to  severity of charges?
  3. If not, will the Solicitor General, Stuart Grieve, Judge Farish, and anyone else associated with this affair, be resigning their position?

Because, really, this isn’t just a case of something rotten in the state of Denmark…

… this is a case of advanced decomposition.

Heads must roll.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 February 2014.

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References

Wikipedia:  Pike River Mine disaster

Ministry of Business, Employment, and Innovation: Pike River Charges Laid

Fairfax media: Whittall ‘part of Pike deal’

TV3: Key to apologise to Pike families in person

ABC News: Prosecutors drop charges against former Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall

NZ Herald: Pike River: Labour accuse Govt of dodgy deal

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Letter to the Editor: What is the price of justice? (In dollar terms)

28 February 2014 2 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM: 	"f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the ed
DATE: 	 Fri, 28 Feb 2014 11:52:01 +1300
TO: 	"Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz>
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The Editor  
Dominion Post

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Revelations that Peter Whittal's solicitor, Stuart Grieve,
made a $3.41 million payment to Crown Law in return for
dropping all charges in the Pike River Mine court case are
an incredible, jaw-dropping, new development for our
judicial system.

According to Mr Grieve's remarks on Radio NZ (27 Feb), it
would appear that the Solicitor General was involved in this
backroom deal making.

So for John Key to suggest, 

"My understanding is no, it was an unsolicited letter. They
looked at lots of different factors but in the end they
could have spent millions and millions and millions with the
lawyers and actually got nowhere - or practically make a
payment to the families, which made more sense."

- is a cynical attempt to trivialise a clearly dangerous
precedent that  undermines our justice system.

If justice can now be purchased in New Zealand, when will
John Key's government issue an Order in Council publishing a
tariff chart for payments to drop Court cases, calculated
according to the severity of charges? 

And will there be a bulk discount for multiple charges?

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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References

Radio NZ:  Pike families convinced deal was done

Previous related blogposts

Purchasing “justice” on the New Zealand open market – did National sell Pike River victims out?

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Not so sensible justice

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internet_lynch_mobs_Cleverbot_said_Im_correct-s391x337-96144-535

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By now we should all be aware of the influence and power of the internet. It has allowed the world into our homes, workplaces, and lives, in an intimate way.

It can facilitate relationships; be a powerful tool for popular causes; assist the democratic process; and it can be a vital tool for rapid acquisition of information – a boon for bloggers like me.  On occassion it has allowed us to “meld” into a single, focused ‘mind’, to exert a  coherent action to affect the physical world.

It also has it’s much darker side. The internet can reflect the most base of human emotions; hatred, anger, paranoia, fanaticism, xenophobia,  a thirst for revenge, and other irrationalities.

Those who maintain that the internet is somehow less “real” than the physical world underestimate it’s influence in our lives.

I foresee the growth of a potential great evil, which will place incredible  pressures on our judicial system and perhaps even undermine it.

We have already witnessed individuals using the net to circumvent name suppression, or to foment mass-hysteria targetting  prominent individuals.

Soon after David Bain was found not guilty on five counts of murder in June 2009, at least one website sprang up vociferously maintaining his guilt, and several on-line fora were filled with strident commentary expressing all manner of irrational accusations.

It has been suggested that the concerted force of this stridency had a degree of  influence on Judith Collins throwing out Justice Binnie’s report and recommendations for compensation.

There was  the case of  far right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater, who in September 2010, wilfully broke name suppression of convicted New Zealanders, and in the process  identified the victim of a sex-abuse case. He justified his actions as being some kind of (mis-guided) campaign against name suppression. (See:  Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater guilty)

And recently there was the chap who published the names and images of those alleged to have attacked  cricketer,  Jesse Ryder.

Jordan Mason felt he could take it upon himself to “name and shame” the two men charged with assaulting Jesse Ryder – even though the pair have not yet been tried or convicted. (see: Jesse Ryder attack: Accused felt he had to ‘name and shame’ men)

Garth McVicar’s latest proposal is another step further along the road toward a dystopian near-future. One where  Cyber Mob ‘Justice’ holds undue influence on our judicial system,

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Trust to launch website to 'name and shame' judges

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ: Trust to launch website to ‘name and shame’ judges

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Garth McVicar’s populist vigilantee organisation, the so-called “Sensible Sentencing Trust” is planning a website that has one core function; to be an instrument of punitive reaction against judges who do not measure up to the Trust’s vision of retributive  ‘justice’.

This “Naming & Shaming” has one agenda only – to encourage and foment an influence on our judiciary that is separate from the law, and puts power into the hands of a small clique (McVicar and his cronies). It would exploit the lowest common denominator in our society – ignorance, fear, hatred, and a hunger for violent revenge – and exploit Mob Mentality to achieve it’s ends.

Who amongst us is  not disgusted by the vileness of  certain criminals and their horrific misdeeds. Our primal urge is to exact a fitting revenge – usually involving copious amounts of pain, and a much-shortened life-span. It’s an urge that lurks in the deepest recesses of our reptilian brains.

As a consequence of the socialising aspects of civilisation, we’ve left those urges (mostly) behind us. Though it can be useful when  governments plan  resource-wars against other nations.

The ‘net – as we also know – allows that veneer of civilisation to be stripped away and our primal instincts for punitive  revenge to surface and expressed in emotive terms. The cloak of anonymity can embolden the meekest.

Have a look at the political messageboard forum on TradeMe, and you’ll understand what I mean.

McVicar’s group understand the power of the ‘net to further their agenda for a more punitive society – and they are going hard out to achieve it.

On this issue, I stand with Justice Minister Judith Collins and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson;  who oppose this  ill-disguised step toward mob-”justice”.

Little wonder that the  New Zealand Bar Association condemned this lunatic idea,

We join with the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General in condemning this proposal. The Bar Association regards the step as being ill-considered, totally unnecessary and likely to give rise to illegality as contempt of court.

What is being proposed amounts to little more than on-line talk back radio – likely to attract debate and comment of similar quality but with the added disadvantage (or advantage, depending upon one’s perspective) of being permanently available and accessible in the blogosphere.

Judges have an extremely difficult job. They are constantly required to make hard decisions under the mounting pressure of increasing case loads, exacerbated by diminishing resources. Their decisions are rightly the subject of appeal processes which are open and transparent. The daily work of a Judge in court is done publicly and is scrutinised by the news media. If the conduct of a judge is questioned, that conduct can be the subject of complaint to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – NZBA President on Sensible Sentencing Trust Website Proposal

The author of this statement, Stephen Mills QC, added – and I emphasise the point,

In our society the freedom to criticise is a valued and protected right, but as with most rights there is concomitant responsibility. The responsibility here is that criticism of the judicial arm of our democracy must be responsible, accurate and measured. These characteristics are frequently absent on talk back radio and they are unlikely to be a feature of the invited public comment on this website, given its stated objective.

Making critical comments via email to a website affords the critic a degree of anonymity that is likely to encourage a lack of responsibility in what is said. This is likely to improperly and unfairly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Understandably, the Bar Association has labelled McVicar’s dangerous idea as “irresponsible”  – because that it precisely what it is. The gradual  under-mining of the judiciary would become the inevitable  reality. Ultimately, no one could possibly benefit from this.

It is worthwhile to consider that there are sufficient numbers of disturbed individuals who could take the existence  of  such a website as a license for vigilanteeism. Even those with less nefarious intentions, acting with collective thought and “righteous”  belief, could place pressure on individual judges who would have little means to resist.

Remember the fuss made over the proposed  “Wellywood” sign on Wellington’s hills? This was the online response,

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wellywood

Source: Google

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Which lead to physical-world protest action,

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Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign

Acknowledgement: Otago Daily Times – Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign

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Now extrapolate into others areas of human activity.

Law enforcement and members of the judiciary are vulnerable.  As happened recently in the United States (though no evidence yet exists of  internet-vigilanteeism being a factor),

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Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks

Acknowledgement: BBC – Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks

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On 18 April, on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon programme, Kathryn Ryan interviewed “Sensible Sentencing Trust” spokesperson, Garth McVicar. He told Kathryn,

“… So ultimately the way it’ll work is some of  the judges that are brought to our attention, and we do our due diligence and think, you know,  by our research that we believe they are consistently getting it consistently getting it wrong, they will be named on that  site, as will some of the previous history and some of the decisions they’ve made that we believe earn them the right to be on the site.”

Acknowledgement: Nine to Noon – “Judge the Judges” website to be launched

In other words – we have the potential for a witch-hunt for judges who, by McVicar’s “research that we believe they are consistently getting it consistently getting it wrong, [and] they will be named on that  site “.

Some obvious questions are,

  • Who decides the criteria of  McVicar’s stated “due diligence“?
  • Who will be tasked with bringing “judges… to our attention“?
  • Who decides what constitutes “consistently getting it wrong”?
  • Who decides what aspects of “previous history”  will “ earn them the right to be on the site“?
  • What right of appeal or response will judges be given? The right of appeal is the most basic of rights for a person accused of a “mis-deed”?
  • How will the information be presented?
  • How will judges be identified?
  • Who will be accountable if information is incorrect, or presented out of context?

This Web Vigilanteeism is an unpredented and dangerous road that McVicar and his mates are taking.

Later that same day, on Radio NZ’s Jim Mora’s panel-programme,  to a question from the Host as to how such a website could be moderated, Garth McVicar was at pains to reassure listeners,

“… I’m not sure if many of your listeners know Ruth Money but she’s no fool. And some of the people that are behind her and putting this together are no fools. So it will be well monitored. It won’t become a rant, for,  you know,  a rave site for people to rave on like some of the other sites I believe are. I don’t bother even  looking into them. This is going to maintain the credibility of the organisation… “

Radio NZ – The Panel with Irene Gardiner and Michael Deaker (Part 1)

Sorry – no. That’s not reassuring at all.  McVicar cannot control the end-use of any information that his group publishes on the web. Ruth Money (a SST administrator/spokesperson) may be “no fool” – but who knows about the state of mind of people rreading it?

And if a judge comes to harm – can the SST be held to account?

After all, they are demanding that judges be held to account.

Earlier in this piece, I wrote of the “growth of a potential great evil”.

My fear is that taken to it’s end-conclusion, ‘net-based “Justice” could begin to influence the judicial process more and more.  The day when citizens go on-line to ‘vote’ on the Guilt or Innocence of a person charged with a crime is a far-fetched fantasy.

I would like to keep it that way.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 April 2013.

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References

Otago Daily Times – Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign (24 May 2011)

BBC – Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks (1 April 2013)

Scoop – NZBA President on Sensible Sentencing Trust Website Proposal (18 April 2013)

Radio NZ – Trust to launch website to ‘name and shame’ judges (18 April 2013)

Radio NZ – Nine to Noon – “Judge the Judges” website to be launched (18 April 2013, audio)

Radio NZ – The Panel with Irene Gardiner and Michael Deaker (Part 1) (18 April 2013, audio)

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