Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

'Christie's Law' bail protest 'restores faith'

Protesters outside the High Court at Auckland supporting the proposed changes to bail laws following the death of Christie Marceau last year. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Protesters outside the High Court at Auckland supporting the proposed changes to bail laws following the death of Christie Marceau last year. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Christie Marceau's mother wears a pendant around her neck containing the ashes of her daughter.

"This is all I've been left with,'' Tracey Marceau said.

She and her husband Brian wept and hugged after addressing hundreds of protesters outside the High Court at Auckland who gathered today to call for tougher bail laws.

Mrs Marceau's daughter died in her arms at their North Shore home in November.

A man since been charged with Ms Marceau's murder. He was out on bail at the time.

Many of the protesters in the crowd today wore Ms Marceau's favourite colour, turquoise, and t-shirts baring her smiling face. They listened to speeches from Brian and Tracey Marceau, as well as Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar.

Mr Marceau thanked them for showing their support. "This sort of helps us restore some of our faith.''

Mrs Marceau also thanked the crowd, which included her family and daughter's friends.

"Best of all, thank Christie, because she was such an awesome kid.''

She called on the crowd to keep the pressure up on bail law reforms.

"Let's just keep this going in her name. We've got to have change.''

Charlie Borrell told the crowd that nothing had changed in the five years since his son was murdered by a man out on bail. "Another young life has been lost.''

He said had Christie's law been in place before 2007, his son would still be alive.

"We all thought this stuff wouldn't happen to us, it only happens on TV or in the newspapers, but believe me, you are not immune.''

One protester, who identified herself as Maureen, said she was tired of people being let out on bail.

"I've never been to a protest before, not this granny.''

Protesters like Maureen held placards with messages including "another bail balls-up'' and "who is next?''.

They also signed a petition calling for bail laws to be amended and judges to be held accountable for their decisions.

The following changes are being sought by campaigners.

* No bail for any person accused of an offence involving serious violence as defined by the "three strikes'' legislation

* No bail for any person accused of an offence which attracts a sentence of two years or more

* Police given the discretionary power to veto a judge's decision to grant bail which would then automatically move the application to a higher court

* The views of victims of violent offending be given paramount consideration

* Every serious bail breach is formally investigated

* More accountability for judges who expose the public to undue risk

Commenting earlier this morning, Prison Reform Society President Peter Williams QC said the bail laws are already tough, and a person's freedom should not be taken away unless they are found guilty.

He said bail is there for people facing serious crimes and sometimes mistakes are made.

"If every time there is a tragedy, there is an emotional response, as was done with the provocation law, our law would be based on poor foundations.

"Our heart goes out to the victim but our laws cannot be based on emotion.''

Criminal Bar Association vice president John Anderson told Radio New Zealand this morning the changes being sought were `"over the top''.

"You've got to realise that a lot of people who are charged are found not guilty. It would be terrible if everyone was simply locked up on the assumption that because the police charge them they're guilty. It would be hugely unjust,'' he said.

"The bail laws in general work pretty well. By all means review them, examine them - we're not opposed to that - but to tighten them to an extreme measure as the proponents of this petition are asking for is just simply over the top.''

- APNZ

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