Mum implores judges to 'sit up and take notice'

By Imran Ali of the Northern Advocate -
Rebecca Templeman, whose daughter Liberty was murdered in 2008, is calling for legal changes. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Rebecca Templeman, whose daughter Liberty was murdered in 2008, is calling for legal changes. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The mother of a slain Kerikeri schoolgirl has called on judges to "sit up and take notice" before parents of victims of crime take the law into their own hands.

Rebecca Templeman, whose daughter Liberty was murdered in 2008, is calling for legal changes proposed by the Law Commission to include an appraisal system for judges, as well as public accountability for their sentencing decisions.

Theo Kriel, then aged 14, was sentenced in March 2010 to life in jail for the murder of 15-year-old Liberty, with a minimum non-parole period of 11-and-a-half years - a sentence Liberty's parents believe was too lenient.

Cabinet yesterday considered law changes, recommended in a report by the Law Commission which the Government had set up to review law.

Proposed changes include compelling the judiciary to publish annual reports, transparency in judicial appointments and updating the 115-year-old Judicature Act.

Explanations for the public as to how judges arrived at their decisions is part of the proposal, and is something Mrs Templeman supports.

She said parole and sentencing also needed to be a lot harsher with a better focus placed on the victims of crimes, rather than the perpetrators and deterring them from criminal activity.

"At the moment, it's almost a holiday for some of these people in jail.

"A lot of the time, it's more about the accused than the victims and I think there's far too much comfort in prisons which is why they come out and re-offend.

"Judges need to sit up and take notice or else, sooner or later, a parent will take the law into his own hands," she said. "Judges, like in any profession, should have an appraisal and they have to be held accountable for their sentencings so that the public have confidence in the judiciary."

After the sentencing of their daughter's killer, the Templemans wrote to Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister John Key, about the leniency of the sentence.

The Solicitor-General decided against appealing the sentence, handed down by Justice Raynor Asher in the High Court at Whangarei.

Mrs Templeman called on lawmakers, particularly politicians, to listen to the public and not pass laws that tied hands of judges during sentencings.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said she expected most of the commission's suggestions to be accepted by the Cabinet, giving the public greater understanding of judicial decisions.

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