Protesters' calls on bail law will be heard, says Key

By Edward Gay, Teuila Fuatai

Christie Marceau. Photo / Supplied
Christie Marceau. Photo / Supplied

John Key has said he is open to considering calls for tougher bail laws following a large rally organised by the parents of Christie Marceau.

Several hundred people joined the protest outside the High Court at Auckland yesterday calling for "Christie's Law" - a toughening of bail conditions in response to the killing of the 18-year-old, who died in her mother's arms at their North Shore home last November.

The man accused of her murder, who has been granted interim name suppression, was on bail at the time of her death.

The Prime Minister said he spoke to the Marceau family yesterday morning and had made it clear to them and the Sensible Sentencing Trust that the Government was not opposed to looking at their recommendations.

The Government was in the process of introducing a new bail law, and Mr Key said he had told the family that if they made a submission to the select committee, his expectation would be that the merits would be considered, and they appeared happy with that.

Many protesters on the march dressed in turquoise, which was Christie's favourite colour, while donations were also collected for the campaign.

More than 1200 people have "liked" the campaign on Facebook.

Charlie Borrell, the father of teenager Augustine Borrell, who was murdered in 2007, revealed his wife had to pass the house of their son's killer every day while he awaited trial on bail.

Mr Borrell told the protesters that if Christie's law had been in place two years ago she would not have been killed.

"The man who murdered my son was released on bail and placed within 1km of our home and across the road from my youngest one's school.

"My wife and child had to pass that house every day," he said.

Christie's parents, Tracey and Brian Marceau, were teary eyed as they addressed the crowds, thanking them for their support.

"This is all I've been left with," Tracey Marceau said, holding the pendant she wears containing her daughter's ashes.

One protester, identifying herself as Maureen, spoke of how Christie's case had affected her personally: "I've never been to a protest before and I don't know the family but this is important.

She said the case was "terrifying", adding that the accused had been bailed close to where Christie was living.

Sensible Sentencing Trust president Garth McVicar said: "I have seen judges make decisions that are wrong and they haven't been held to account.

"They are not at the coalface of the justice system. It is time we stand up and change."

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

"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."

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."

THE PROPOSALS

* 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.

- APNZ

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