Wednesday, 20 May 2015

John Banks: justice delayed

So John Banks is innocent of filing phony electoral returns. But he is still guilty of being John Banks. And being John Banks now appears to be the reason for him being charged in the first place, and for evidence in his favour being withheld by the prosecutor.

But whatever you think about the former Minister of Rhyming Slang, and my own estimation is subterranean, his case highlights a serious problem with NZ justice. And I don’t just mean the problems of evidence.

I mean the extreme fricking delay in getting justice.

As they say, justice delayed is justice denied. Banks filed his electoral return in 2010. Five years ago. This first went to court in 2012. It’s only yesterday, when it was confirmed he wouldn’t face a retrial, that his name was finally cleared.

Three years.

He was put through the mill.  Utterly unable to get on with his life. His political career was terminated– for which some, me included, are very grateful. But a man, even this one, is entitled to something in the way of justice much swifter than this.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Even if it’s denied to John Banks.

5 comments:

  1. This has always puzzled me. What exactly causes the massive delays? Is there anyone with a bit of insider knowledge who can explain why so many cases seem to take SO long to be heard, completed, and a sentence passed? Do judges just not bother working particularly hard? :)

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  2. @Greig

    More often than not, it's the defence lawyer getting the case delayed to buy more time to gather evidence, contact witnesses etc.

    Also the prosecution often initially charges the defendant with a more serious charge than they deserve to ensure an eventual conviction.

    For example if someone is guilty of a careless driving charge, over the course of proceedings a charge of careless driving could be dismissed/discharged without conviction. So the police instead charge the defendant with dangerous driving. Then the subsequent bargaining that would have resulted in the careless charge being dismissed instead results with dangerous being downgraded to careless, which he is the convicted of. Judges should really put a stop to this by ensuring the appropriate charges are laid at the 1st or 2nd hearing.

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  3. @Dave Seems sensible (your proposed mitigation, not the lawyer shenanigans).

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  4. @Greig If anything I've understated the lawyer shenanigans. Remember that a defence lawyers job is to cast doubt in the minds of the jury. Fuzzy witness recollection two years after the incident is more likely to be doubted than a fresh memory under cross-examination.

    I'd also add that more delays equals more hearings which equals a higher bill for the defence lawyer. So there is a financial disincentive for a speedy trial as well.

    My brother is a lawyer and I've had more than a few beers with him and his colleagues. There would be plenty of shenanigans they haven't told me about yet I'm sure.

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  5. @Dave It's becoming increasingly difficult to have much faith in our system of justice.

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