Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Justice sidelined by legal games

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So, Susan Couch has been denied her request for her case against the Department of Corrections to be heard by a jury.

Couch, the sole survivor of the Panmure RSA attack that left three others dead, has been battling for more than 11 years to get damages from Corrections, blaming them for the murderer, William Bell, being on parole at the time of the attack.

She was left permanently damaged by the horrific assault and has now been badly let down by the Government. Her lawyers wanted the right to put her case before a jury, but the Crown opposed it on the basis that the case would be too complex for a jury to understand.

Lawyers argued the toss behind closed doors and the final decision came out this week. High Court Justice Timothy Brewer agreed with the Crown, ruling that a jury trial would involve "consideration of difficult questions of law" not suited to a jury.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is patronising BS. Bullshit, if the editor let's me get away with using that word. You either trust the jury system or you don't.

There have been many, many cases in which juries have heard complex evidence and they were trusted to reach a verdict in those.

I'm thinking of the Waihopai spy base and the Urewera terror trials, in particular.

I think the real reason the Crown is opposed is that any right-thinking jury would award Couch all the damages she's asking for - and more.

I suppose, too, the Government is concerned that if Couch is successful in her suit it will open the floodgates to other New Zealanders who have been badly let down by government departments.

This woman deserves so much more than the half a million dollars in damages she is asking for, and she badly deserves a break.

She won't get one from this Government. What we're seeing here is not the justice system at work. It's lawyers playing legal games.

- Herald on Sunday

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