Anna Leask

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

Big drop in on-bail crime but 31 still die

Exclusive: Changes to NZ's laws increase public safety, court figures show

Christie Marceau was fatally stabbed by a defendant out on bail.
Christie Marceau was fatally stabbed by a defendant out on bail.

The number of people committing further crimes while on bail has dropped by 19 per cent since 2009 - but during that time 31 people died as a result of that re-offending.

Ministry of Justice figures obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act revealed between 2009 and 2012, 46,967 people who had appeared in court and released on bail until their next hearing went on to commit further offences.

But between the 2009/10 and 2011/12 years, that number dropped by 3356.

The figures show 31 people were killed by offenders out on bail - 11 were murdered, 14 were the victims of manslaughter and six were killed by bailed defendants committing driving offences.

In the 2011/12 year, one person was murdered by an offender on bail for driving licence offences, theft and breaching community work. Of the two people convicted of manslaughter that year, one was on bail for assault at the time of the victim's death, and the other was on bail after being charged with stealing a vehicle.

District Courts general manager Tony Fisher said the figures for 2013 would not be available until next year.

"This is because people accused of crimes while on bail in 2012 and 2013 may still be waiting for their case to be decided in court," he said.

"The number of people offending while on bail across New Zealand is reducing ... [the figures] show that when people have offended on bail, the most common offences are against justice procedures - mostly breaching earlier community service orders and community based orders, theft and driving under the influence of alcohol."

Mr Fisher said changes to New Zealand's bail laws which came into effect in September "increase public safety by making it harder for those charged with the most serious offences to get bail", he said.

The changes included reversing the burden of proof in bail decisions so that the defendant has to prove they can safely be released on bail rather than police having to prove they should not be released.

"New Zealand's criminal justice system is based on the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty. This means that a person who is charged with a criminal offence should not be detained without good reason. That is why we have a bail system," said Mr Fisher.

"Also, if the alleged offending is not serious enough to justify imprisonment if the person is found guilty, it will generally be unfair to imprison that person while their guilt is being decided. Around 90 per cent of convictions don't result in imprisonment so fall into this category."

Victim advocates said the decrease in offending on bail was "welcome".

"However, we should all be disturbed that such a large number of offences are committed by those who should be on their best behaviour while other charges are pending," said Sensible Sentencing Trust spokeswoman Ruth Money.

"Offending while on bail shows disdain and arrogance towards the justice system by those committing offences.

"The recently passed Bail Amendment Bill will likely have a positive effect in reducing reoffending while on bail, albeit marginal. Serious offending while on bail tends to be committed by the hardest core of recidivist offenders. Mandatory cumulative sentences for offences committed on bail would have the greatest deterrent effect."


Victims of bail offenders

Christie Marceau: Stabbed to death in her own home in November 2011 by Akshay Chand, who was on bail with strict conditions after kidnapping and assaulting Christie two months earlier.

Inayat Kawthar: Fatally stabbed in November 2012 by her partner Ramintesh Avinash, 10 days after he was bailed for an earlier assault on her.

Augustine Borrell: Murdered in September 2007 by Haiden Davis, on bail for aggravated assault and theft at the time.

Mike (surname can't be published): Suffered permanent brain damage after an unprovoked attack by three men in Pt Chevalier in November 2012. One of the alleged attackers was on bail at the time, and facing charges of assault with intent to injure and possession of a knife.

Offences while on bail

2009/10: 16,849 offences including 4 murder, 5 man-slaughter, 1 driving causing death, 1,944 acts intended to cause injury, 69 sex offences, 242 robberies, 1054 burglaries.

2010/11: 16,625 offences including 6 murder, 7 manslaughter, 2 driving causing death, 1,819 acts intended to cause injury, 65 sex offences, 202 robberies, 968 burglaries and break-ins.

2011/12: 13,493 offences including 1 murder, 2 driving causing death, 1,581 acts intended to cause injury, 53 sexual offences, 156 robberies, 900 burglaries and break-ins.

- NZ Herald

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