Peter Williams: Courts must show compassion

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Judges must temper these draconian laws with compassion and humanity. Photo / File
Judges must temper these draconian laws with compassion and humanity. Photo / File

Every good citizen would agree with the proposition that if people acquire substantial assets by committing crimes such as the manufacture of methamphetamine, the state should be entitled to seize those assets.

The difficulty with this legislation is that it obviates the traditional standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt, and that confiscations may cause injustice to innocent parties such as young children when their home is seized and sold.

A Bay of Plenty case exemplified this when a district court judge confiscated the family home. The husband was growing cannabis in the back garden against the wishes of his innocent wife. Their two-year-old son also lived in the house.

Mercifully, our Court of Appeal reversed this decision.

Sound law must be based on reasonable grounds and fairness. Judges must temper these draconian laws with compassion and humanity.


• Peter Williams, QC is a civil rights lawyer.

- Herald on Sunday

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