The 18 year old charged with murdering Murray Wilkinson outside his Waihi caravan applied for bail again yesterday. Bail was denied but I'm told that his QC indicated he would try again.
The accused has name suppression so we can’t learn the truth about him but if today’s judges had half the common sense of previous generations’ such an application would be unthinkable. Our courts are pathetic about discouraging wasteful and abusive procedures. But then they are handicapped by what should be shame, but is probably instead passive recognition that it could be years before the case is tried. They have to at least consider whether the presumption of innocence is compatible with holding an accused for so long.
Senior judges could cut both the delays and these abuses overnight. But instead of taking the initiative they’d rather tacitly resist Parliament and complain about the Ministry’s attempts to bring justice costs under control.
Judges could at least make it clear that offenders who show their lack of remorse with stupid applications will have that insolence reflected in the eventual sentence. Lawyers, whose duty it is to make such applications whatever their personal view of them, could then explain that offensive procedures are only worth the risk for defendants who are confident of being acquitted.
Trouble is, seeking bail on a murder charge may not seem stupid to the offender, however outrageous it is. Bail and sentencing law make it rational for bailed offenders to add to their offending. Parliament tinkered last year, and indefensible suppression law is Simon Power’s legacy.
The accused in Waihi can’t be blamed for expecting courts to be indulgent – he was apparently free to hurt fresh victims on New Year’s Eve because he was out on bail on charges for incidents some weeks earlier and six months ago.
Judges have allowed our system to become so constipated that a six month old charge remained unheard. Even our generation's judges should feel they can’t justify giving bail on a third charge (of murder) but who knows?. Mr Wilkinson may have paid the price for previous indulgence, not the judges.