Parents Maintain Right To Fair Trial

Media Release 15 Sep 2011
Family First NZ is welcoming news that their submission to the Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill regarding maintaining jury trials has been accepted by the government. 

“The original proposal of removing the right to choose trial by jury for crimes punishable by less than three years in prison would have directly affected parents who are prosecuted for smacking-type charges,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

 “The anti-smacking debate has led to an ill-conceived and confusing law and if the proposal had been implemented, it would have further exasperated good parents who found themselves before the courts because it would take away their choice to choose to be tried before their peers who would take a pragmatic approach, rather than a strictly legal application of a flawed law.” 

“Only the ACT party seemed to understand our concerns, and deserve credit for lobbying for these changes,” says Mr McCoskrie. 

“There have been recent examples where only the common sense of juries has protected parents from the actions of politicians. These include a couple who faced 15 charges of excessive time out and chores, physically restraining a child, and smacking – and who were acquitted by the jury unanimously on all 15 charges. And a father was acquitted in the Wellington District Court in June by a jury after being charged for attempting to control a disruptive and unruly child.” 

When similar changes were proposed in the UK, the Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said “trial by jury is a fundamental right in cases where the defendant is at risk of imprisonment for a serious criminal offence or loss of their good reputation.” – a stance also supported by the Queensland Law Society and the NZ Law Society. 

“If the government had proceeded with its proposals, it would have caused further angst for parents under a law that’s already problematic enough,” says Mr McCoskrie.


4 comments for “Parents Maintain Right To Fair Trial

  1. Greg
    15 September 2011 at 11:46 am

    Haven’t they just decided to change the threshold from 3 years to 2 years jail to trigger trial by jury?

  2. Bob
    15 September 2011 at 11:56 am

    Yes – so smacking type cases can still choose trial by jury

  3. 15 September 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Be very careful about this.

    The current law allows someone to choose a jury trial if charged “with an offence which is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 3 months”. That is, charges punished by exactly 3 months don’t allow jury trials.

    The bill changes this to anyone charged with a category three offence, which is defined as an offence punishable “by imprisonment for more than 3 years”. That is, offence punishable by exactly 3 years are category 2 offences where you can’t choose a jury trial.

    Assault on a child is 2 years maximum. If all they’re doing is changing the phrase “3 years” to “2 years”, then smacking trials will have to be judge alone.

  4. Margaret
    19 September 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Thanks for fighting for this Bob.

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