Fall in North's court appearances

By Brendan Manning, Imran Ali


The rest either faced a stay of proceedings or "other"Police are taking a far more responsible approach in exercising discretion on whether or not to prosecute cases.Wayne McKean, Northland Crime Bar Association

The number of people appearing on charges before Northland courts has fallen in the past year but a leading defence lawyer in Whangarei said numbers could drop even further if more diversions were considered.

Ministry of Justice statistics show the Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Whangarei and Dargaville courts heard 13,223 charges last year - down from 15,304 in 2011.

The 13,223 charges resulted in 10,578 convictions, and 2287 cases not proved.

A further 292 defendants received diversions or were discharged without convictions, with the rest found unfit to stand trial, insane or faced a stay of proceedings.

Northland Crime Bar Association representative Wayne McKean said police in Whangarei could do more in terms of granting diversions.

Whangarei recorded the lowest diversion rate in the country at 2.2 per cent last year and Mr McKean questioned the low statistic, saying crime in the district was no different to those in other parts of the country.

"Police are taking a far more responsible approach in exercising discretion on whether or not to prosecute cases but I think Whangarei police could do more in terms of offering diversion," Mr McKean said.

He said pre-charge warnings were also a good move that would free up valuable court and police time.

Northland District Prosecution Manager Rebekah Brown said pre-charge warnings had significantly affected the number of diversion cases.

"Whangarei is focused on making a difference by selecting only those offenders we believe will benefit from the diversion process as we also want to make sure the victims are not forgotten, therefore the number of diversions is not as important as the right decision for police to offer this alternative resolution," she said.

Ministry statistics show the number of people appearing in Northland courts last year also came down.

Last year, 5038 people appeared compared with 5720 in 2011 and 6097 in 2010.

The biggest number of charges (2874) were for "offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations", such as breaching bail conditions.

The second biggest charges category was traffic and vehicle offences, with 2816 charges heard locally last year - down from 3281 in 2011.

Exceeding the drink-drive alcohol limit brought 1354 people before Northland courts in 2012, while 1291 were charged with driving licence offences.

Thirteen people were charged last year for exceeding the speed limit.


THE FIGURES



  • 5038 people appeared in Northland courts in 2012


  • 13,223 charges heard


  • 10,578 convictions


  • 2287 cases not proved


  • 292 diversions or discharge without convictions


  • 16 people either unfit to stand trial or found insane


- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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