Judge tells why hammer attack bail unopposed

By Mathew Dearnaley, Rebecca Walsh

Police are refusing to say why they did not oppose bail for the man accused of attacking a truck driver with a hammer.

But their decision, which has come under fire, has been explained by Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson.

In a letter to the Herald, the judge said the 35-year-old's application for bail was not opposed by police on the grounds he had no record of previous offences, police did not consider there was a risk of him absconding before trial and he had turned himself in.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said no violent offender should be granted bail.

"Police should have appealed it immediately. If they didn't oppose bail they should have. We shouldn't have violent guys like that out on the street," he said.

Mr McVicar said he was "pro the police" but full prisons were not an excuse to allow violent offenders out on bail.

Counties Manukau police communications manager Angeline Barlow said police would not make any comment because the matter was before the court.

The defendant, a father of four, appeared in the Manukau District Court on Thursday. He was given temporary name suppression pending an appeal against Judge David Harvey's decision not to suppress his name.

Frank Hogan, who was representing the man in court, said suppression was sought on two grounds: the defendant's father had just been released from hospital with a serious heart problem and did not know his son had been charged, and the man had a close relative taking part in a sporting activity this weekend who could do without the publicity.

An appeal will be heard by the High Court.

Freight transport leaders say no level of provocation could justify an attack of road rage, and say they screen out aggressive drivers in industry recruitment drives.

National Road Carriers Association executive officer Bert Riley said a friend of Barry Fletcher, the Auckland truck driver attacked with a hammer on Tuesday, had called him yesterday to vouch for "one of the most passive persons she knows".

Mr Riley acknowledged that some truck drivers might be seen by other road users as arrogant and aggressive at times.

"There is a bit of bad on both sides and I suppose some truck drivers are not as good as they should be."

But he said his organisation, which had just begun a third year of training recruits from sources including Work and Income, was careful to screen out candidates who might become too aggressive in charge of a powerful rig.

"The last thing we want is a guy who is going to be aggressive," he said. "We do a lot of interviewing and we do a lot of rejections."

Only about 10 per cent of applicants were accepted for training.

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