NZ Herald Nov 16, 2010
The Government is proposing to end the right of a defendant to elect trial by jury for about 80 offences, including smacking a child. The move to limit jury trials to more serious and complex cases is expected to cut the number of jury trials by between 1000 and 1400 annually. The move is part of a package of sweeping reforms announced yesterday by Justice Minister Simon Power in a bid to reduce the time cases take and simplify the criminal justice system.
Bob McCoskrie, the national director of Family First, which opposed Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking law, said that while Mr Power’s reforms were well intentioned, the Government had not thought through the implications for parents “prosecuted for minor acts of physical discipline or smacking”. The proposed regime suggested that assault, including domestic assaults, were a more minor offence yet a conviction for assault was actually a serious conviction. “It is vital that parents have theright retained to be judged by their peers.” The opposition Labour Party’s associate justice spokesman, Charles Chauvel, said that while some change in the threshold for jury trials made sense, Labour would reserve its position until it had heard select committee submissions.