New Zealand Law Society - Criticism of Judge unfair

Criticism of Judge unfair

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Criticism of sentencing decisions by judges is easy and usually ignores the wide range of information and factors which the judges have before them and must take into account, New Zealand Law Society President Chris Moore says.

"Because our judges must remain impartial and be seen to be so, they are unable to defend themselves when their decisions are attacked," Mr Moore says.

"However, I feel I must speak out over the unfair criticism of Justice Patrick Keane's decision not to impose a sentence of preventive detention on Tony Robertson, who later murdered Mrs Bessie Gotingco.

"Nothing is said or given in evidence in any court proceeding in the absence of the Judge. The judge hears everything, sees everything, and assesses everything. All court proceedings are carried out according to the rules and procedures which our society has decided are necessary. And judges must make a decision within those parameters. They are in the best position to decide how to apply the very well defined rules governing sentencing.

"It has already been said that on the facts and information which was presented in court, preventive detention was not a realistic option. The Judge would have carefully considered the submissions made by both prosecution and defence and come to a decision based on all the circumstances. The Crown did not appeal his decision and that can be taken as acknowledgement that Justice Keane's decision was fully in accordance with the law and the offender's situation.

"Judges must make their decisions according to the facts and following the processes and considerations laid down in the Sentencing Act and by other similar cases. Our sentencing system is a product of our whole society.

"The New Zealand Law Society is totally supportive of Justice Keane. New Zealanders should be proud that our judiciary is made up of people of his understanding, legal expertise and compassion."