Are the bloody judges listening to we legislators?
Two court cases reported in the papers today have triggered this question and sparked Alf’s sense of outrage.
First, a former All Black who pleaded guilty to child assault yesterday was granted name suppression.
The former rugby star is the latest in a long line of top sportsmen who have appeared in criminal courts and been allowed to keep their identities secret.
Yesterday, he pleaded guilty to assaulting a child in September. An Auckland District Court judge granted him name suppression until his next appearance – and it’s possible his name may never be able to be published.
The man, in his 40s, could get a discharge without conviction when he is sentenced in February and could apply for a permanent court order banning publication of his name.
The assault might not have been a serious one – the Herald says it believes the case is one of excessive discipline and the former player has been ordered to undergo anger management counselling before he next appears in court.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that, as legal experts are pointing out, name secrecy goes against Parliament’s wishes to tighten suppression laws and a child safety advocate says well-known people have even greater responsibility to act positively.
The courts are making a habit of this sort of carry-on.
Another former high-profile All Black appeared in a Wellington court last week and he, too, was given name suppression.
In that case, the 45-year-old was charged with assaulting his partner while out celebrating the All Blacks World Cup victory over France, resisting police and possession of cannabis.
As the Herald has noted in its report, the Criminal Procedure Bill was passed as recently as October.
It makes clear that “wealth, reputation or public awareness” should not be factors in gaining name suppression.
True, it will not come into effect until March next year.
But it allowed for a strong presumption of open justice.
Auckland University Faculty of Law associate professor Scott Optican said the new law was intended to “bring more order to the chaos” and to guide the discretion more.
Associate Professor Bill Hodge, who also works at Auckland University, told the Herald that even though this was a minor assault, the defendant was a top sportsman who should not receive name suppression because of his fame.
“Perhaps the victim, who is a child, would be identified. That would be the only exception I’m willing to give if it compromises, identifies, embarrasses the child … sportsmen should not get name suppression because they’re sportsmen … if a child is involved and could be identified then I could maybe see what the district court is doing.”
The second case involves the tosser who was convicted of bashing seals to death near Kaikoura.
Would you believe it…the bugger has had his sentence reduced from two years in jail to eight months on home detention?
Jason Trevor Godsiff, 20, from Renwick, was sent to prison for two years for killing 23 seals when he was sentenced by Judge Ian Mill in the Blenheim District Court in September. He had admitted wilfully ill-treating animals.
Godsiff’s lawyer Gary Sawyer appealed the sentence in the Wellington High Court on November 1, on the grounds the prison term was ”manifestly excessive”.
Justice Jillian Mallon quashed the prison sentence and replaced it with an eight month home detention sentence.
The judge said Godsiff was not given enough credit for his youth, good character and remorse and guilty plea.
But hold on – he had admitted bludgeoning the seals near Ohau Point using a galvanised pole on November 26 last year.
Alf was among those in Parliament who unanimously supported a bill that significantly increases penalties for cruelty to animals.
The legislation began as a member’s bill drafted by National’s Simon Bridges, but the government took it over and ensured it was high on parliament’s agenda.
It increases the maximum sentence for wilful ill-treatment of an animal from three years to five years.
Maximum fines will double to $100,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a company.
Agriculture Minister David Carter, who was in charge of the bill, said it was intended to send a clear message that serious offending against animals was unacceptable.
“It is unacceptable to our society and a priority for this government,” he said when the first reading debate began last week.
“People who are capable of cruelty to animals are also capable of violence to their families and others.”
The bill created a new offence of reckless ill-treatment of an animal.
This would apply where it could be proved that a person knew or appreciated that serious harm to an animal could occur, and unreasonably ran the risk anyway.
What must we do to get Parliament’s wishes through to the judges?