Campaign to save other families from pain

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 27/05/2012
Christie Marceau
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CHRISTIE MARCEAU: The 18-year-old was found dead at her home in Hillcrest, Auckland.
Ashkay Anand Chand
GRAHAME COX/Fairfax Media
ASHKAY ANAND CHAND: Charged with murdering Christie Marceau.

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The mother of a teenage girl allegedly killed by a man on bail will march on Parliament this week to petition for tougher laws. Kirsty Johnston reports.

Each morning Tracey Marceau struggles to get out of bed, weighed down by her grief. Her daughter Christie, 18, died in her arms after an attack at the family's home in November.

The man accused of her murder, Akshay Chand, was on bail on charges of kidnapping and assaulting her two months earlier. He has pleaded not guilty.

Angry at the failure of the justice system, the Marceau family have begun a campaign to ensure what happened to Christie never happens again.

"It's about the only thing keeping me going," Tracey says from Adelaide, where the family – father Brian, sister Heather – moved after the tragedy.

"I take my strength from Christie. I've got a driving ambition at the moment to go forward."

The "Christie's Law" group wants tougher bail laws, including offenders aged between 17 and 19 treated more like adults, and stricter sanctions on judges to prevent "mistakes".

Chairwoman Ruth Money has a background in marketing, spokesman Jason Platt in business. The group's Facebook page has 4000 members, more than 40,000 have signed a petition to be presented to the Government this week, and thousands marched down Queen St wearing turquoise, Christie's favourite colour.

Money did not know the Marceau family before the killing. "I'm concerned at the state of the justice system. There's a lack of common sense, and I have a duty to help others understand our laws."

The group's first step is getting support for bail law changes. The Bail Amendment Bill goes to select committee in July. Tuesday's march, at which Tracey will speak, is aimed at encouraging more submissions.

If the amendment passes, those charged with serious crimes will have to prove they are not a danger to the public if given bail, reversing the burden of proof – which, though a significant change – is still not as tough as some of the changes in Christie's Law.

Platt says the group's other focus is on judicial accountability. "There are good and bad judges. But once appointed, they're there for life, and there's no way to question performance."

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The judge who bailed Chand has been the group's main target. Platt says it's the only way to get accountability, and the group will keep pushing.

"The feeling of a group of New Zealanders is that putting him under scrutiny is the only avenue open."

But the campaign is not without its critics. Criminal Bar Association vice president John Anderson says judges are accountable through the appeal process. "A lot of it wouldn't have an effect on the way justice is administered. It's a waste of resources. It's a huge waste keeping people in prison."

Rethinking Crime and Punishment director Kim Workman says judges are already cautious.

"The facts of this case aren't known yet. Did the judge make a bad decision, or was his information misleading?"

For Tracey Marceau it is simpler. "I'm angry. I lost my daughter. Who is going to take responsibility for Christie?"

CHRISTIE'S LAW

What they want

Bail

Police given power to appeal bail decisions

No bail for those with a criminal history involving violence that attracts a sentence of two years or more

No bail for anyone accused of an offence involving serious violence as defined in the three strikes legislation

Bond

Reintroduction of meaningful bail bonds –no payment, no bail Automatic and immediate inquiry after every serious bail breach

Victims' views of any violent offence given paramount consideration

Judiciary

Make judges accountable

Annual performance reviews of judges, with the right of public recall for those who expose the public to undue risk

- Sunday Star Times

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