Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Review of judges' bail rulings rejected

Christie Marceau
Christie Marceau

The demands of a lobby group seeking tougher bail laws should not be adopted, MPs say, but some minor changes to bail rules are needed.

In a 58,000-signature petition, the "Christie's Law" group demanded immediate changes to bail laws and an external performance review of judges.

It was submitted by Tracey Marceau, whose daughter Christie Marceau was killed in 2011 by a teenage offender who was on bail at the time.

The parliamentary law and order committee made a series of recommendations in response to the petition, but did not recommend an overhaul of the way judges' decisions were reviewed.

Committee chairwoman Jacqui Dean said: "While Christie lost her life and we acknowledge the terrible ongoing tragedy for her family, we're hopeful our recommendations may go some way to preventing this kind of tragedy from recurring."

MPs on the committee recommended that in cases where a bailed offender had committed a serious crime, the judiciary should critically analyse the granting of bail.

They said police prosecutors should have the right to appeal against bail decisions to the High Court, not just the district court.

The committee also said consistency in bail decisions could be improved if, where possible, the same judge heard any further hearings on a bail application.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust, which supported the Christie's Law campaign, said the MPs' proposed changes were "common sense but not progress".

Justice Minister Judith Collins said she did not support an independent review of judges.

"In a country where we have a separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive, judges are already peer-reviewed because of appeals.

"I understand in this particular case [Marceau], an appeal could have been applied for."

She said that in cases where bailed offenders committed a serious crime, greater analysis of the decision could be introduced.

"That is something we could well look at."

But she ruled out using the same judge for all of an offender's bail hearings as too complex.

- NZ Herald

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