Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This stinks

Stuff: Former cops' sentences quashed:

Two police officers convicted of covering up a colleague's alleged assault of a prisoner won't serve a day in jail, a judge decided yesterday.

Reuben James Harris and Benson Lyle Murphy were sentenced to 15 months jail last August after pleading guilty to conspiring to defeat the course of justice last August.

They tried to protect a colleague, who has name suppression, who allegedly assaulted George Tipene Harris in the back of their police car on October 3, 2004. Mr Harris was later found dead.

But in the High Court yesterday Justice Pamela Andrews quashed their prison sentences, instead sentencing them to 10 months home detention, the Dominion Post reported.


Justice Andrews did not give a reason for her decision.

This stinks. No, not because two crooked cops who admitted perverting the course of justice in a manslaughter case are avoiding jail - though that doesn't smell too good either. The reason it stinks is because the judge provided no reasons for her decision, making it absolutely impossible for us to scrutinise her decision. As Tumeke points out, there must be reasons - judges don't make their decisions by rolling 3D6 and consulting the sentencing table - but if we can't see them, we have no way of knowing whether they are good or bad - or of dismissing the odour of institutional corruption that naturally arises.

Which reinforces the importance of open justice. It's not about the spectacle or providing the media with easy copy; it's about ensuring public confidence in the justice system. If things are done in secret, as in this case, we can have no confidence at all in the outcome.