Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Fronting up over foul-ups

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Inayat Kawthar was stabbed to death in her own home and her former partner Avinash is dead too after taking his own life. Photo / Supplied
Inayat Kawthar was stabbed to death in her own home and her former partner Avinash is dead too after taking his own life. Photo / Supplied

When Ramintesh Avinash threatened to kill his former partner, he meant it. So when he was released on bail, after appearing before a community magistrate, he went back and finished the job properly.

Now 24-year-old Inayat Kawthar is dead, stabbed to death in her own home, and Avinash is dead too after taking his own life. Yet another death, which could have been prevented if magistrates had made the right decision and if they had listened to police.

The officers who were looking after Inayat are reported to be devastated. They had opposed bail. Then, when the community magistrate ignored their strong recommendations that bail be denied, they tried to convince Inayat to move into a refuge. They knew what was going to happen - and because nobody heeded their warnings, a young mother is dead - and so too is her killer, but I doubt many will lose sleep over him.

The Chief District Court Judge announced a review of community magistrates training this week, in the wake of the murder-suicide, with particular attention being paid to issues relating to bail decisions.

Well, good for her, but don't hang the community magistrates out to dry. District court judges too have been known to make poor decisions and nobody's called for an overhaul of their training.

I get that making bail decisions is an imperfect science and that judges and magistrates must make their decisions based on existing law. In what has become a landmark case, Christie Marceau's killer was granted bail despite kidnapping her, holding her hostage for hours and assaulting her. Ashkay Chand was granted bail because the law says judges have to give bail to first time offenders and those under 18.

Only days later, while on bail and living 300m from Christie, Chand entered the the Marceau home and stabbed Christie to death. She died in her mother's arms. Given that, I can understand why it has become the Marceau family's mission in life to get the bail laws changed.

As it stands, the Crown must convince judges defendants need to remain locked up until their trial; the Marceau family and their supporters want the emphasis shifted so that defence lawyers must convince judges that the community would be safe if their clients were released while awaiting trial. Doesn't seem like much to ask, does it?

The review of training for community magistrates is all well and good, but I would like to see an independent body review the decisions of all magistrates and judges where their decisions have been a catalyst for a death.

The police have to jump through hoops and defend their processes every time there's a death that results from decisions they've made. Doctors too have to justify their decisions when a death results. Why not judges?

I don't want to see a witch hunt - I can't imagine what it would be like to have to live with the knowledge that a decision you've made has contributed to a death. That would be a sore punishment. But if other bodies have to front up and give a public explanation for the decisions they've made, judges should have to as well.


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- Herald on Sunday

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