Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bail is a human right

There's been a lot of criticism of the decision to grant double-murder accused Chris Kahui bail, all seemingly based on the idea that Kahui is a Bad Person and doesn't deserve to be walking around free. This criticism is misguided, and ignores two rather essential points: firstly, that in this country, people are innocent until proven guilty; and secondly, that Kahui has not been convicted of anything yet.

Absent a conviction, pre-trial detention is effectively punishment without trial. It therefore requires the strongest of justifications. Those justifications are summed up in s8 (1) of the Bail Act 2000: there must be a risk of flight, of interference with witnesses, or of further offending while on bail. Kahui does not meet any of these conditions, therefore the presumption is that he will be released. The presumption is even stronger when his detention would be effectively solitary confinement. While he has failed to meet bail conditions previously (he has been barred from consuming alcohol), given the severity of his detention conditions, this does not outweigh the presumption of release.

Those calling for Kahui and other serious offenders to be automatically remanded in custody are advocating punishment without trial. And that is not justice, but the vicious revenge of a lynchmob.