Family terrified about attack

By Joanne Carroll

The couple live in fear of an attack. Photo / Doug Sherring
The couple live in fear of an attack. Photo / Doug Sherring

An Auckland father-of-two is "waiting to die" because the man accused of attacking him is out on bail, despite the alleged attack coming while the accused was already on bail on a murder charge.

Campaigners for tougher bail laws say it is one of the most contentious cases they have seen in the past 10 years.

The case is shrouded in secrecy because of strict suppression orders, but the family cannot understand how the accused is out on bail when the attacker had been out the first time waiting for a murder trial.

They are so frightened they are considering whether it is even safe to send their children to school as the accused was bailed to live in the same suburb.

"We are very scared. We can't sleep. We are just sitting here, waiting for him to come around and kill us," the victim's wife said.

"My husband has been having nightmares since it happened. He choked my husband's neck ... until he couldn't breathe." Someone intervened in the alleged assault.

They have written to the judge and Prime Minister John Key, pleading for help and seeking an explanation of how it could be considered safe for the man to be back out on the streets.

They say they had complained to police about threatening behaviour before the first attack - while the man was on bail for murder - yet there were no charges and the assault happened. Now he is out again.

The situation has outraged Sensible Sentencing Trust chairman Garth McVicar. "It doesn't come any worse than this. It's a complete travesty of justice of the highest order," he said. "We deal with hundreds of issues a year - 700 to a 1000 a year - and this would be in the highest levels of concern we have seen.

"Scared isn't the word [to describe the emotions of the family]. They are terrified. Tears flow easily. They're scared of sending their kids to school. Their parents are in hiding."

Sensible Sentencing and the group behind the Christie's Law campaign, which is petitioning for tougher bail laws after the death of North Shore teenager Christie Marceau, had taken legal advice to see if they could challenge the position, but it appeared fruitless.

They had also written to the Human Rights Commission and Justice Minister Judith Collins, wanting answers on why things were kept secret, how it happened and seeking help for the family.

The minister hid behind sub judice rules in her reply to the Herald on Sunday, saying there would be no comment while the case was before the courts. She refused to confirm she had even received a complaint. She would not say if she would intervene, or offer any advice to the family, who McVicar said needed help. She had to keep at arm's length to retain judges' independence.

"New Zealanders have a right to feel safe in their homes and their communities and we are making changes to bail laws to reflect that," was all Collins would say.

"These changes will make it harder for those accused of serious offences to get bail."

McVicar said he believed the offender had no regard for New Zealand law and it made the plight of the family even worse.

"Under New Zealand's current system, he has nothing to lose."

It meant, in effect, he could kill twice for the price of one, as his sentence might not be substantially different.

"Judges have set themselves up as god. They have no one to blame but themselves for the pressure they are going to come under."

- Herald on Sunday

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