Sam Boyer

Sam Boyer is a police reporter for the NZ Herald.

Police union urges policy crackdown

Among the changes proposed are tougher alcohol laws, harsher penalties for fleeing drivers, and the full-time arming of guns and Tasers for frontline staff. Photo / Thinkstock
Among the changes proposed are tougher alcohol laws, harsher penalties for fleeing drivers, and the full-time arming of guns and Tasers for frontline staff. Photo / Thinkstock

The national body representing the interests of police has released its election-year policies proposing changes to crime and justice.

Among the changes proposed are tougher alcohol laws, harsher penalties for fleeing drivers, and the full-time arming of guns and Tasers for frontline staff.

As they did ahead of the 2008 and 2011 General Elections, the New Zealand Police Association yesterday released its policy document "for the future".

Included in the proposals was a sterner stance on defendants' refusals to co-operate with statements and evidence.

"The Police Association believes government policy to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system should ... amend the law relating to criminal procedure and evidence to allow judge and jury to draw such inferences as appear proper from a defendent's refusal to answer questions or give evidence," the policy document reads.

"The incentive to silence greatly obstructs the ability of police, the courts, and most importantly victims, to ascertain the full truth and receive an explanation for an offence."

Some high-profile cases in which the "right to silence" has been scrutinised include the Scott Guy murder trial and the case against Chris Kahui, accused of killing his twin baby sons.

In a similar vein in Australia at the moment, Gable Tostee, the man accused of murdering Kiwi tourist Warriena Wright when she plunged from his balcony on the Gold Coast, to this point has exercised his right to silence and refused to give police a statement.

"No one can make anyone talk but if you refuse to speak ... then they should be able to comment on that," association president Greg O'Connor said.

"No one is going to force you to speak, but the judge might say, 'one might have thought if you were innocent, you would want to talk.' It's really about going along with the UK."
In the United Kingdom, which shares New Zealand's common law legal heritage, "a judge or jury may draw 'such inferences as appear proper' from a defendant's refusal to make statements of give accounts to the police or court, while providing that a finding of guilt cannot be based solely on such inferences".

"New Zealand should adopt a similar reform," the association policy states.
Following release of previous policy documents, Parliament had "progressed" a number of Police Association initiatives, the association says.

"Police are more effective, and the public is safer, as a result," Mr O'Connor said.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 20 Sep 2014 09:31:39 Processing Time: 471ms