Another killing that makes a mockery of our justice system

GORDON BROWN
Last updated 09:00 17/11/2012

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There is anger and frustration in New Zealand about the way judges are seemingly accountable to no-one.

That's a slight exaggeration, of course; they have a hierarchal system in which they can be answerable to each other. That's of scant consolation to the rest of us, however, who see it as little more than an old chums' network from the rather closed circle of lawyers.

Before going too far with this line of thought, I want to make it clear that there are exceptions and in Allan Roberts, Taranaki is fortunate enough to have an outstanding district court judge.

Significantly though, even he has been moved to air his frustration from the bench at his own inability to hand out longer sentences because he knows from bitter experience they will only be overturned by other judges further up the judicial chain.

The latest judicial outrage to make headlines this week concerns the community magistrate who released Ramintesh Avinash on bail - despite strenuous objections from the police - which in turn gave him the opportunity to murder his former partner, Inayat Kawthar.

That followed a violent altercation in her home less than a fortnight earlier when he was charged with threatening to kill her and assault with a weapon.

Has commonsense deserted our judicial system?

That triggered a universal feeling of disbelief and anger that once again a dangerous nutter was set free to kill. It was an avoidable and unnecessary death, especially coming almost a year after another young Auckland woman, Christie Marceau, was killed in similar circumstances. As if that wasn't bad enough, compounding the whole sorry business is the judiciary's view that they should be above any sort of reproach, to the point where they deign not to comment - ever.

Never mind that John Key, his cabinet ministers, or any member of parliament is open to the utmost scrutiny. That is how it should be. The world we live in has changed and it is well overdue for this precious group of learned men and women to rethink their approach when it comes to accountability.

Anyone in the media will tell you it is a waste of time trying to get comment from a judge.

The judicial system's absolute disdain towards anything vaguely resembling the public's alleged right to know leaves an unpalatable vacuum in a so-called just society.

When it comes to law and order, the electorate has spoken many times. A non- binding referendum had no fewer than 92 per cent demanding a tougher stance on law and order.

Naturally the question asked, as a result of a petition, was "flawed", so no action was taken.

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Since then politicians have played around with various amendments to some laws so they can claim the moral high ground as the party which is "toughest" on the issue, but it's not nearly enough.

In the latest case, concerning the community magistrate and the bailed killer, a spokeswoman for the district court did have the good grace to actually say something in the aftermath of this avoidable tragedy.

Sonja de Friez, director of Community Engagement District Courts (how's that for a title?), said an investigation into the community magistrate's decision to release Avinash was under way.

"It is a tragedy whenever a person dies in circumstances where the matter is before the courts," she said.

"In these cases all aspects are reviewed and appropriate action is taken."

Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue said community magistrates would have their training reviewed, particularly around bail decisions.

It's a start, I suppose.

In a variation of the law and order theme, most of us would have sighed in relief that Joel Loffley was found guilty on Wednesday of the murder of two-year- old James Joseph Ruhe Lawrence, known as J J. Revelations that poor little J J's mum was "too wasted" to even try to get help highlight, yet again, the problems that continue to make a mockery of the benefit system.

Let's ask the noisy Left again just where our priorities should be?

Oh, that's right, climate change, fracking and dolphins that might swim this way once every 100 years.

Finally, some much-needed humour. American woman Paula Broadwell gives the concept of "embedded" a whole new meaning. She was the biographer of CIA director David Petraeus when he was merely a four-star general in charge of the United States troops in Afghanistan.

Tipped as a potential presidential candidate, Petraeus is now unemployed after admitting he and Mrs Broadwell had an affair - while she was embedded.

At the time no-one realised just quite how much. That's commitment.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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