Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Judith Collins: I'm not criticising judges

Judith Collins has landed in hot water after commenting on a judge's decision to grant bail to an alleged sex offender, who has since gone on the run. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Judith Collins has landed in hot water after commenting on a judge's decision to grant bail to an alleged sex offender, who has since gone on the run. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Corrections Minister Judith Collins has denied she was criticising a judge when she said a decision to grant electronically monitored bail was wrong.

Ms Collins made the comment after a man on bail for alleged sex crimes removed his electronic bracelet and disappeared.

Matthew Kidman, who faces charges of unlawful sexual connection, has not been seen since Friday

Ms Collins had initially said that the Department of Corrections had not recommended electronically monitored bail, and that the decision was up to a judge. "In my opinion, and in Corrections' opinion, this was the wrong call. You have to say it was an unusual decision but a judge has made that," she said.

However, she said that ministers did not criticise judges, who made the best decisions with the available information.

The cabinet manual says ministers should not comment on the results of particular cases. The separation of the executive and the Judiciary meant ministers had to exercise prudent judgment before commenting.

After coming under fire from the Criminal Bar Association, Ms Collins told Radio New Zealand this morning: "I think that the judge has made a decision and that decision stands. And I'm sure that the judge has done everything that the judge can do, I don't even know which judge is involved. And I wouldn't want to.

"I'm not calling a judge out on it. I was asked as Minister of Corrections, why didn't Corrections stop this happening, in essence. And I've said, well Corrections did not support this decision. And it hasn't worked out well. That is actually common sense and the truth."

Matthew Kidman is wanted by police for breaching bail. Photo / Supplied
Matthew Kidman is wanted by police for breaching bail. Photo / Supplied

Ms Collins' comments on the Kidman case come shortly after New Plymouth District Court judge Allan Roberts lashed out at the Government, claiming it was trying to keep offenders out of jail.

On Friday, Justice Roberts sentenced 26-year-old Joshua Aaron Salvador Edwards to jail for breaching a sentence of community work, driving while disqualified and failing to stop. His probation officer's report had recommended community detention.

The Taranaki Daily News reported that in sentencing Edwards, the judge said there was a "government direction" to probation officers to recommend non-prison sentences.

Ms Collins flatly rejected his comments. Justice Roberts is a long-serving, outspoken judge who is set to retire in a few weeks.

Ms Collins has previously criticised aspects of the judiciary. As Justice Minister in September 2013 she put judges on notice that slow delivery of reserve judgments would no longer be acceptable.

At the time, Ms Collins pointed the Herald to three judgments by the Employment Court Chief Judge Graeme Colgan, one of which took two years to deliver a judgment, and two others which took 20 months.

"From my point of view it is totally unacceptable as the Minister of Justice to stand by and let some cases, particularly Employment Court cases, take 18 months or two years for decisions to come out."

- NZ Herald

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