Judges cannot take any more chances: Callander

By Chloe Johnson

Tough stance from court bench against bail for violent offenders

Justice Russell Callander sent four defendants back to the cells in the interest of public safety. Photo / NZPA
Justice Russell Callander sent four defendants back to the cells in the interest of public safety. Photo / NZPA

A district court judge is waging a crusade from the bench to stop serious offenders being released back into the community.

At one sitting earlier this month, Judge Russell Callander sent four defendants back into the cells while making strong statements about the need to keep the public safe.

During the hearings at the Auckland District Court, Callander said bail was granted too readily and judges could not take any more chances.

"We are almost weekly now presented with ugly situations in court where violent offenders seek and obtain bail, only to return home to inflict either death or further grievous injury on the original complainant," Callander said.

"That strikes fear into the heart of any rational community, and indeed into the heart of any rational judge assessing risk issues on bail."

Callander is usually based in Tauranga but has been filling in at Auckland.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said Judge Callander should be cloned. "He's been on our radar for some time. We like his work."

McVicar is encouraged; he says the community is standing up for tougher judges and things are starting to change. He says Callander is stepping up and letting offenders know that if they carry on their crazy ways, the sentence will fit the crime.

McVicar says he would like to think Callander's approach will be taken on board by others in the system.

The four defendants who were subject to Callander's crack-down, who can't be named because it may influence pending court trials, 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.

The third was a recidivist burglar with 106 previous convictions facing a fresh charge of burglary.

The last was a man kicked out of a rehabilitation programme, resulting in breach of e-bail.

The defendants will contribute to a record high for the number of people spending Christmas in a remand prison.

More than 1600 defendants will be on remand this Christmas compared with 1200 in 2006.

In the case of one of those in court, police alleged he held a shotgun to the face of jeweller Ray Galley while ordering him and his elderly mother to lie on the ground. The man was released on bail but was arrested seven months later for allegedly assaulting a female he lived with.

Callander pointed out he had been granted bailed again but was arrested two months later for another alleged assault against two men with a blunt instrument.

Last year, High Court judge Justice John Priestley finally revoked the man's bail and he had been in custody since.

"That is just, I think, an indication that these days bail is granted much more readily than it ever used to be, even on very serious offences," Callander said. Shop owner Galley told the Herald on Sunday the terrifying incident in March last year had ruined his life.

He was forced to close his business of 30 years and now lived on a sickness benefit of $190 a week.

"Everyone is making money out of this robbery except me," Galley said. "The police are getting paid, the lawyers are getting paid, the judge is getting paid."

Defence counsel Sam Fernando said the Crown case was "very weak" and there was hope his man would be acquitted by a jury in February.

Criminal Bar Association president Tony Bouchier said it was likely high-profile cases such as Christie Marceau's killing contributed to judges being more cautious.

However, he said, each bail application should be assessed on merit.

"I think it is possibly drawing a broad sword to suggest bail is granted far too regularly," Bouchier said. "We have tens of thousands of people on bail who are abiding to their terms and not offending while on bail."

- Herald on Sunday

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