Friday, November 30, 2007

Defeating paedophobia

The Law and Order committee has reported back [PDF] on Ron Mark's Young Offenders (Serious Crimes) Bill, and recommended that it not be passed. The bill would have lowered the age of criminal responsibility for "serious crimes" (anything with a penalty of over three months imprisonment or a $2000 fine - which translates to pretty much anything in the Crimes Act) to 10, allowing kids to be railroaded into the District Court and jailed for anything beyond the most minor shoplifting. It was a vicious expression of the growing paedophobia of NZ First's elderly voter base in reaction to a few nasty cases, but as the saying goes hard cases make bad law. In the end the select committee was not convinced of the need to overturn the entire youth justice system and the longstanding principle of doli incapax simply to satisfy Ron Mark's reactionary and authoritarian impulses. Instead, they're pointing at the current review of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 as a way of addressing some of the issues raised by the bill.

The interesting question now is whether NZ First will throw its toys out of the cot. Labour support for sending the "kids in jail" bill to select committee was a centrepiece of the Labour - NZ First confidence and supply agreement [PDF]. Wil NZ First jerk the chain in order to push its vicious agenda, or will they accept that their bill was so flawed that not even National would support it and resolve to try again some other time?