Tougher bail laws to cover teens

NZ Herald 12 Nov 2012
A bill tightening bail laws for killers and repeat offenders is being toughened by making it harder for 18- and 19-year-olds to avoid custody. Sweeping changes to bail legislation which were designed to prevent violent or sexual offenders reoffending while on bail have been approved by a parliamentary committee. If it becomes law, the bill will mark a fundamental shift in legal principles by reversing the onus of proof for alleged offenders. Justice Minister Judith Collins told the Weekend Herald she was confident the legislation struck the balance between the public’s right to safety and the right of offenders to be considered innocent until proven guilty. The bill would require that a person on a murder charge or repeat violence, drugs or sex charges would have to persuade a judge a community would be safe if they were released. Under present law, the Crown must show why defendants should be locked up. The introduction of the bill coincided with the launch of a movement called “Christie’s Law”.

….Labour MP Charles Chauvel said the high rate of offences committed by people on bail was partly because of a congested court system which kept defendants waiting up to two years for a trial – increasing the chance they would commit crimes while on bail. Green MP David Clendon said the tougher rules were a political response to a vocal minority who demanded more punitive measures on the false basis that violent crime was increasing.

What the bill does
* Reverses burden of proof for accused murderers in bail cases
* Broadens list of offences in which defendants will have to show they will not be a threat if released
* Removes provision favouring bail for 17- to 19-year-old repeat offenders
* Allows police to arrest without a warrant people who repeatedly breach bail
* Increases penalty for failure to appear in court to three months’ jail or a fine of up to $1000
* Allows district courts to deal with serious offenders in bail cases
New proposals
* All 18- and 19-year-old repeat offenders to face adult bail test
* Police will not need warrants to arrest children under 14 who are breaching bail conditions.