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Hockey stick defence

  • March 26th, 2009

The depositions process is on the way out. I was indifferent to its demise, but today’s Herald story causes a rethink. Congratulations to:

  • Otara store owner Virender Singh for not knuckling under;
  • Defence counsel Greg King, for brilliantly saving Mr Singh from the expense and frustration of a wrong and pointless trial
  • JPs Mark Sinclair and Ray Cullen for having the confidence and the common sense to dismiss the charges, saving the justice system, and in particular the idiots from the Police hierarchy or Crown Law office from the prolonged damage they and the system would have suffered from a trial; and 
  • Garth McVicar, for organising for Greg King to help Mr Singh. A few more like this and Mr King can still his conscience for all the scumbags he’s been obliged to help with his professional skill.

But brickbats to Jonathon Krebs for the NZ Law Society and John Albertson for the Retailers on Morning Report this morning.

Krebs peddled the establishment line that it is (and should be) legally dangerous to defend yourself. Mr Albertson peddled the line that it could be physically more risky to try to defend yourself or your property.

In Mr Albertson’s defence he may have picked up his lines from NZ Police HQ. They just make them up.

While I was an MP Police pushed the line at a Select Committee that victims who try to defend themselves with weapons are likely to have the weapon turned on them.

I asked the Parliamentary Library to research it. They could find no evidence to support the claim and lots going the other way. A US Bureau of Justice analysis of 6,000,000 case records showed statistically better outcomes for crime victims who tried to defend themselves. Defence with a weapon was still better.

I asked in written Parliamentary questions for the Police to supply the evidence on which they based their advice. They responded that everybody knew it, and it would be too troublesome to look out the evidence and that Victim Support agreed with them.

I asked Victim Support for their reasons. They responded that they had never said anything of the kind, and had no view on the matter. The Police then said that their reference to Victim Support was a mistake.

Sadly, Police HQ are untrustworthy. On these matters Mr Alberson should talk to the seasoned old cops in the front line who will give realistic advice (like the famous – "always warn before you thump an attacker – and remember carefully which came first").




Krebs is right. Otherwise you’ll have people getting chased down the road and getting stabbed, and that’s getting too close to Batmanland.

Singh used reasonable force and the charges were dropped. That’s as it should be.


PS. For all the stick I give the SST, this is one of those times they do some good. Now if you can only get Garth McVicar over to Finland again. He came back sounding most reasonable last time:

[N]ewly appointed Minister for Corrections Damien O’Connor has proven to be a circuit breaker in this regard by taking Garth McVicar of the “Sensible Sentencing Trust” with him on a trip to Europe. In particular Mc Vicar along with advocate of ‘faith-based prisons’ Kim Workman, and O’Connor, visited Finland, which once had an even higher rate of imprisonment than New Zealand currently has. In recent years Finland has halved the rate of imprisonment. The Finns have achieved this by de-politicising the criminal justice debate, by convincing the media to take a less sensationalist treatment in regards to criminal offending, and by investing in rehabilitation with those in prison. The Finns describe their approach as ‘human rational’ – Muldoon’s ‘intelligent pragmatism and genuine humanitarianism’ perhaps?

  • Jim Maclean
  • March 26th, 2009
  • 10:42 am

It is little short of tragic that a Police force which has traditionally shown restraint in applying force, common sense in dealing with situations and raw courage in opposing violent offenders has now come to be dominated by such plonkers as the present executive. It would be at least understandable if it was simply corrupt or incompetent, but it is not. The zealots are equally ridiculous in putting the actions of their own staff under the microscope and ruining their lives and careers if there is the least suggestion that an officer has been less than perfect in applying force against an offender. It simply must stop! A clear message must be sent that the precious and expensive time and resources of the Police must be focused on those who set out to do wrong and when and only when they have adequate resources to do this thoroughly and completely should they take the time to get involved in the complicated question of whether an officer or civilian confronting an offender, might have handled the situation better. We, the public have had enough! If the politicians will not fix this then we will keep voting them out until they do. It is obvious that otherwise sensible and qualified people in responsible positions are SERIOUSLY out of touch with the community, and I suggest, reality, to leave the law as it is.
Good on ya Stephen, more strength to your blogging arm!

  • F E Smith
  • March 26th, 2009
  • 11:14 am

Good post, Stephen.

Don’t forget that Krebs is a former crown prosecutor (until not so long ago) and still has a lot of that sort of police mentality in him. It is disappointing to have a NZLS spokesman sounding like a cop, I must say. Nicely rebutted with your research.

Well done to Greg and congratulations to Mr Singh. Knowing how often the JP’s simply rubberstamp a committal, regardless of the evidence, I applaud Greg’s work and the JP’s backbone to stand up to what will be some very angry cops.

Don’t forget, however, that if the Police want to they can re-lay the charges and start the process again. Or the Crown can request permission of the High Court to present an indictment against Mr Singh. It isn’t necessarily over just yet, although I do hope it is.

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  • Chuck Bird
  • March 26th, 2009
  • 1:17 pm

I think the issue is wider than self defence. The law on self defence needs to be changed to give more rights to victims of crime but that is a separate issue.

Police should only lay charges where there is a prima facie case. That is if there is high likelihood that a jury will convict.

Yesterday, two cases got thrown out before they went to trial. Singh was lucky in that his lawyer work pro bono. In the case of the police recruit I assume he had to pay his own legal costs. What a waste. It sounds like the police had a potentially good recruit compared with the young ones they normally train. The man was 30 and in the territorial army. He was suspended from that as well as police college.


[…] Act’s longstanding principles. I made self defence a high priority as Act Justice Spokesman. Since then nothing has changed in the Police attitude, at least as far as they have officially acknowledged, though I thought […]

[…] Act’s longstanding principles. I made self defence a high priority as Act Justice Spokesman. Since then nothing has changed in the Police attitude, at least as far as they have officially acknowledged, though I thought […]

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