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An open letter to the Sensible Sentencing Trust

To the Sensible Sentencing Trust, it’s officers and members;

This morning, I was looking through the news as I do most mornings. I came across an opinion piece by Marcus Elliott on the New Zealand Herald website about your new website, Judge the Judges. Looking through both his comments and the website itself, I am entirely disgusted by the existence of such a inherent attack on our justice system.

To start with, I’d like to point out that the comments made by Mr Elliott are all entirely accurate. Your website is effectively saying “the justice system is great, unless we don’t agree with the decisions made”. Have you ever thought that maybe your organisation is not the be-all-and-end-all of the justice system.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but your organisation effectively believes that the justice system should throw away the key for most offenders and should ensure that the victims of crime are not dragged through the court system. What you don’t seem to understand is that for this to happen, there are two important parts of our justice system that would need to be changed and it would cause absolute travesties of justice. The first is the assumption that people can be rehabilitated. The second is that people are innocent until proven guilty.

In order for someone to be imprisoned for extended periods of time without the possibility of parole, you have to assume that they will not be rehabilitated within the corrections system. Remember, it’s the CORRECTIONS system. It’s about correcting, not about punishing. If you feel they will be rehabilitated, they surely should be released when this has happened.

The other thing you need to remember is that because someone is innocent until proven guilty, the person the defendant is accused of wronging is not necessarily a “victim” until it has been proven they are. Additionally, if you don’t want “victims” to go through the court system, it makes the prosecution’s job that much more difficult. How do you prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused did something without putting the “victim” into the court system? It becomes much more difficult. Personally, if I had been the victim of a crime, I’d prefer to relive that in the court system than have the person who wronged me be let off because it wasn’t proven beyond reasonable doubt.

So there you have it. Your organisation insists that they’re trying to support victims, but really, you’re just hurting them. All this and I haven’t even touched on your absurd website yet.

The legal system is not the game of chance you’re suggesting it is. Don’t tell me you didn’t know what you were implying by having a casino-esque background to the website and saying things like “hands judges have dealt”. You personally attack judges for doing a very important job that should be respected. By doing so, you undermine the confidence New Zealanders have in the justice system, all because you don’t agree with less than 1% of the cases that go through our judicial system.

The authority judges should be using is legislation, precedent and other legal principals. Thankfully, they use that, rather than the almighty authority that is the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

I hope your organisation realises that what they doing is frankly wrong, though I sadly expect the arrogance of your organisation to continue for many years to come.

Yours,

Daniel Farrell

This has been sent via email to the Sensible Sentencing Trust. Any response will be added below.

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