Check the facts before you speak out

Tuesday January 08, 2019 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Two events of the recent past involving direct attacks on our court system has compelled me to shake off the cobwebs and start the new year by throwing a few jabs!

 

The first was on the front page of yesterday’s CINews, calling for the courts to take a tough stand on violence against women. While I applaud Rebeka Buchanan’s passion and devotion to her work, I would urge her to check her facts.

Had she been in court or made some inquiries, she would have found out that the assault involved a push while the complainant was sitting on a stationery motorcycle. One push only: no punches, slaps or other violence and no injury.

The complainant happens to be a trained athlete and quite capable of protecting herself. After a rapid reconciliation with her partner, the defendant, the complainant wrote a letter to the police asking for the charge to be withdrawn. In law, a complainant can withdraw a common assault charge, but not a serious assault charge.

The complainant chose a future to be with her partner, resigned from her job and plans to shift to Australia with him. As an Australian Army serviceman, with 17 years of service, he stood to lose his job if he was convicted. The same applies to police officers here. The correct outcome was reached by the JP when he stood the case down, raised a number of issues and waited for the correct answers before arriving at his decision.

The JP discharged the defendant under section 112 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1981-82. He did not dismiss the charge. The section applied by the JP allows him to study the facts of the case, before exercising his discretion to discharge. This has the effect of an acquittal.

A guilty plea does not always merit punishment. Other facts such as being a first offender, a low scale level of violence, self defence and job or career-threatening consequences are all taken into account . That is how our legal system works, fair and just. Defendants are not placed on a conveyor belt and shifted along to the slaughterhouse for slaughter!

So Rebeka, keep up with the good work, keep the passion burning, but study the cold facts of each case before making impetuous speculation.

The second example is far worse. The attack on the Court of Appeal by deputy prime minister Mark Brown. This is a no-no area for anyone. The criticism of the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Rakahanga electoral petition case not only reflects Mark’s lack of understanding of the electoral laws, but was highly improper and in contempt of the Court of Appeal. The DPM is lucky not to have been charged and imprisoned!

The fact that Mark Brown’s boss, the Attorney General and prime minister Henry Puna has done nothing about it, when there were two instances of contempt of court in relating to the same case by the DPM, reflects badly on the Attorney General, but are we surprised?

He is usually oblivious to anything happening around him. Our judiciary is one of the best in world and we cannot allow its high standing to be sullied and defiled. To my friend the DPM, you are boxing well above your weight. Your “mouth overloads” in the media are diminishing the judiciary that you should be protecting.

            Norman George,

            Barrister & Solicitor and Officer of the Court

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