A few episodes ago in my podcast I made a reference to the fact that Helen Clarke’s Labour Government was seriously talking about the possibility of allowing accused people to be re-tried for the same offense. I used it as an example of how extremely totalitarian the views of our Prime Minister really are. I would never have thought – at the time – that such a sinister move would ever find wide support. I noted an extraordinary outlandish point of view, and moved on.
Today I confess to being somewhat gobsmacked. As my friend Madeleine over at M and M has noted, this is now a reality in New Zealand. Somehow the label “Communist Re-trial” didn’t appeal, so it has been called the “Criminal Procedure Bill.” And it’s not just the Left that supported it. It gained enough support in parliament to be passed last night.
As Madeleine explains, given the normal practice of one accusation, one trial:
So we are left having to accept that once a court has heard a case, weighed the evidence and ruled, that’s that. Allowing the state to keep having a go because despite the court’s assessment, the state “know” this person is guilty (or worse because of trial by media, the public “know”) is to give the state far too much power and to give society far too much uncertainty in the justice system. Whilst it may succeed in increasing the chances of nailing the guilty it equally runs the risk of allowing the state to run trial after trial after trial with its vast resources against the innocent.
Labour undid hundreds of years of jurisprudence on human rights formulated by far greater legal and ethical minds than any of them possess in one sitting last night. Just remember that next time you decide that someone guilty got off after listening to the 8 second soundbite on the news or reading the 600 word article in the Herald; if a judge and 12 of your peers who heard all of the evidence, got to see the body-language and hear the tone of voice of the witnesses ruled the other way, maybe they were in a better position to assess the case. If the police failed to build their case then tough. If anything, knowing they can have a second crack will encourage them proceed with a lower standard of evidence.
The Bill, which will become law soon, also allows a guilty verdict to be reached by only 11 of the 12-person jury.