Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Fatal flaws in our bail laws

Figures reveal serious crims offend while awaiting trial.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the Bail Amendment Bill was likely to come into force next year and would make it harder for repeat offenders to get bail. Photo / Ross Setford
Justice Minister Judith Collins said the Bail Amendment Bill was likely to come into force next year and would make it harder for repeat offenders to get bail. Photo / Ross Setford

A violent gang member was free to kill despite committing crimes while on bail for five consecutive years.

Rangi Brown, 41, is one of 398 "hardcore" repeat offenders who committed crimes every year between 2006 and 2010 while on bail, figures released under the Official Information Act show. They include 96 guilty of violence or sex offences.

Critics say it is further evidence bail laws are failing.

Brown was part of a Black Power group who stabbed 31-year-old Peri Niwa to death in 2008.

Brown was found guilty of manslaughter in 2010, after racking up convictions for violent offences including assault with intent to injure and beating up his girlfriend.

Even his lawyer, Barry Henderson, said Brown should not have been continually granted bail. "He was always in trouble," said Henderson, an experienced New Plymouth criminal barrister.

"Once he had been charged, he would offend again in the interim. You could call it anti-authority. Bail laws should be tightened up."

Niwa's mother Olive was still bitterly upset about his death. "I'm trying to let that go," she said.

Under bail law reforms, the burden of proof will reverse so people charged with drug offences, serious violence or sexual crimes will have to prove they should be released on bail, rather than police having to prove they are a danger.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the Bail Amendment Bill was likely to come into force next year and would make it harder for repeat offenders to get bail.

"There are recidivist offenders out there who see committing crime, getting released on bail and then reoffending as simply a part of what they do."

However, most of 400 hardcore offenders were "low level" recidivist offenders and the judiciary was unsure how to deal with them because their crimes did not justify long prison terms.

According to figures from the Justice Ministry, 12 per cent of offenders committed crimes while on bail.

Egg thrower in court

Antoni Kalekale appeared in the Auckland District Court on Friday on charges of breaching his bail.

In 2007, Kalekale, then 12, made headlines after throwing an egg at Prime Minister John Key's car in Auckland's McGehan Close.

He was granted bail last week on a charge of assaulting a female.

But within a few hours he was picked up by police for alleged breaches of bail.

- Herald on Sunday

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