Editorial: Benefit of doubt over bail must go

By Dylan Thorne


Good on Judge Russell Callander for taking a tough stance on violent offenders seeking bail.

At one sitting this month, Judge Callander, who usually sits in Tauranga but has been filling in at Auckland, sent four defendants back into the cells while making strong statements about the need to keep the public safe.

Judge Callander says, almost weekly, judges are presented with situations where violent offenders sought and obtained bail, only to return home to inflict either death or further grievous injury on the original complainant.

Cases such as these struck fear into the heart of any rational community, he says.

The four defendants who were subject to Callander's crackdown were up on a range of offences.

One allegedly king-hit his partner, causing her to go blind in one eye.

Another allegedly robbed a jeweller's shop while high on meth, placing a shotgun to the owner's face.

I applaud Judge Callander's stance and wholeheartedly agree with his analysis of the situation.

The last time I editorialised on this issue was in relation to the case of Bay man Bevan Peter Brown, who carried out an aggravated robbery one day after he had been arrested for carrying a knife and telling authorities he wanted to stab someone. The robbery occurred after he was released on bail.

To me that case - and many others - highlight serious issues with our bail laws.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice show 23 people were convicted of murders committed while free on bail over a five-year period.

A further 21 were convicted of "homicide-related" offences committed while on bail.

These included manslaughter, attempted murder and driving causing death.

As I have said in the past, protecting individual rights is the cornerstone of a free society, but there are occasions when the greater good must take precedence.

People accused of serious crimes, such as murder, and who have a history of offending do not deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to bail.

The court has a duty to protect the public in such cases and the law must change to ensure this happens.

Parliament is considering a bill designed to make sweeping changes to bail legislation following the death of Christie Marceau, who was stabbed to death in a frenzied attack in her Auckland home last year.

Until those changes come into force we will have to rely on people like Judge Callander to take a rational approach to bail applications, to consider the greater good and to put community safety first.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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