Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Justice delayed again

Its official: the trial of the Urewera 18 has been postponed till next February to allow the Supreme Court to consider appeals on evidence and a jury. Which means that the accused will be hanging around in legal limbo for four and a half years.

This is ridiculous. Quite apart from the obvious problems such a long delay poses for the prospect of a fair trial, it also means another year of onerous bail conditions for the accused - effectively punishment without trial. And all of this for offences the government advised would likely only be punished with fines.

The normal wait for a trial in New Zealand is one to two years. This has already dragged on for twice that long, with no end in sight, and it has now reached the stage where it is questionable whether justice can be done at all. Serious cases have been thrown out for shorter delays. If the police persist in their efforts to hold a single, judge-alone trial, this cases may join them. And that would be a loss to us all.