Media Release 15 September 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.