Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Murder while on bail - 23 cases

Almost 70,000 offenders committed new crimes after being released on bail. Photo / Thinkstock
Almost 70,000 offenders committed new crimes after being released on bail. Photo / Thinkstock

Twenty-three people were convicted of murders committed while free on bail over a five-year period, say Ministry of Justice figures obtained by the Herald.

A further 21 were convicted of "homicide-related" offences committed while on bail.

These included manslaughter, attempted murder and driving causing death.

Figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show four people were convicted of committing murder while on bail in 2006, six each in 2007 and 2008, three in 2009 and four in 2010.

Figures for last year and this year were not available.

The figures, which cover defendants whose trials were completed by the end of 2010, do not indicate the number of victims, as in some cases more than one person was charged with the same murder, or more than one murder occurred at the same time.

The information also revealed that over the same period, almost 70,000 offenders committed new crimes after being released on bail.

The figures were revealed days before a parliamentary select committee is to start hearing submissions on proposed changes to bail laws.

The Bail Amendment Bill aims to change bail laws to improve public safety. One of its changes would reverse the burden of proof for serious violent and sexual offenders.

This means defendants would have to prove to the court that they would not be a threat to public safety if released on bail.

Under the present law, the police must show why defendants should remain locked up.

In 2008, the law was changed to reduce the threshold for a bail refusal from a "real and significant risk" to "a risk" that the defendant would abscond, interfere with witnesses or commit crimes.

The Ministry of Justice says that each year, about 78,000 people spend time on bail.

Between 2006 and 2010, 69,087 people were convicted of at least one offence committed while on bail.

Of those, 7146 were convicted of acts intended to cause injury - mainly assault - 1132 of abduction, kidnapping, false imprisonment, harassment, nuisance or threatening behaviour, and 763 of sexual assaults or offending.

The majority of the 44 people charged with murder or homicide-related offences while on bail were facing assault and traffic- or vehicle-related charges.

Others were on charges relating to firearms or weapons offences, abduction, sexual assault, drugs or various breaches of conditions.

The Herald has highlighted several cases in which a person charged with a serious violent crime was on bail.

Last November, 18-year-old student Christie Marceau died after a violent attack at her North Shore home.

Akshay Chand, 19, was charged with murdering Christie.

He was on bail at the time after allegedly kidnapping, assaulting and threatening her two months earlier.

After Christie died, her parents teamed up with the Sensible Sentencing Trust to start the Christie's Law campaign for tougher bail laws.

THE NUMBERS

78,000 people spend time on bail each year in New Zealand. Between 2006 and 2010:

* 23 were convicted of murder
* 21 were convicted of homicide-related offences including manslaughter and attempted murder
* 7146 were convicted of acts intended to cause injury
* 1132 were convicted of abduction, kidnapping, false imprisonment, harassment, nuisance or threatening behaviour
* 763 were convicted of sexual assaults or offending

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 21 Dec 2014 02:05:10 Processing Time: 651ms