This website was developed in response to feedback we have received over many years that some Judge’s decisions in relation to sentencing or bail, in particular, were poor and appeared to significantly favour the offender over the victim/s or public safety. read more
Most Judicial decisions are not routinely made public and we acknowledge that a very large number of decisions are made every year at District Court, High Court and Court of Appeal level, as well as in other Jurisdictions. Many of those decisions, perhaps most, will be thoroughly justified and correct. The focus of this website is on decisions we don’t agree with, and a few we do agree with. read more
This website was developed in response to feedback we have received over many years that some Judge’s decisions in relation to sentencing or bail, in particular, were poor and appeared to significantly favour the offender over the victim/s or public safety.
This feedback has come from a wide range of people - members of the public, victims of crime, lawyers, media, and other interested observers. Frustration was regularly expressed that Judge’s appeared unaccountable for their poor decisions, that these poor decisions were all-too-common, and that the cases involved could quickly be forgotten due to the busy lives we all lead.
We have responded to that feedback by developing ‘Judge the Judges’ to bring together some of the higher profile cases that epitomise that frustration in what many New Zealanders consider poor Judicial decisions.We have developed this website with a number of objectives in mind, such as:
We are keen to hear of cases you are aware of, both good and bad. Email us the details here
Should you wish to join Sensible Sentencing Trust and or donate, please click here
Judge the Judges is an initiative of the Sensible Sentencing Trust.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust has a vision for a safer New Zealand, with a lower level of crime and victimisation. We believe that the protection and safety of the public and justice for victims should be given greater weight in the justice system.
For instance, the Bail, Sentencing and Parole Acts have numerous aspects that significantly favour the offender over victims, particularly for serious violent and repeat offenders.
Where there is reasonable doubt as to the safety of releasing an accused on bail, or a convicted prisoner on bail or parole, the balance should always fall on the side of public safety, and in particular in favour of any specific victim who may be at risk from that person. Anything less is a failure of any Government’s prime duty of care to the law abiding over the law breaking. Judges are empowered to exercise that duty of care.
Given the above, we acknowledge that sometimes Judges are limited in their response by law. But in the majority of cases we consider that the law even as it stands allows Judges to make decisions that reflect public expectations better than, for instance, the cases featured on this website.
Ultimately, we want Judges to make decisions that put victims’ first, with offenders ‘rights’ well down the list of considerations. By and large, victims have not chosen to be victims, but offenders have chosen to commit their crimes. That choice and the effect on the victims should be more clearly recognised by Judges, and the law.
No other profession, and certainly none paying so well, appears so insulated from professional standards and performance review as Judges are. Judges are paid handsomely – at least $300,500 a year for a District Court Judge, and $395,000 for a High Court Judge.
See the latest schedule of Judicial salaries here: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2012/0424/latest/DLM4940708.html
We do not expect perfection and no mistakes – Judges are human after all. But clearly poor decisions need transparency and criticism to apply pressure for better decisions. We also accept that Judges are limited by the various laws under which they must operate, such as the Sentencing Act, the Bail Act and various others.
The Judiciary demands independence, but to maintain that position the public has a right to demand that Judges undertake ongoing professional development to ensure they remain responsive to and reflective of contemporary public expectations. Judges cannot be disciplined or removed for poor performance or negligent decisions, yet it remains a mystery how Judges are held accountable for such decisions, particularly where they result in the loss of life or serious harm.
Due to a largely unpublished caseload through District Courts, we are unable to reflect, comment, applaud or criticise the many thousands of other decisions made annually. So while we don’t see the many good decisions, equally we don’t get to hear about many of the other poor decisions being made and never reported by media due to their limited resources.
We make no apology for focusing attention on cases and issues where we believe public expectation and that of the victims involved has not been met.
We focus almost entirely on criminal matters, not civil, given our limited resources and focus on victims of crime and sentencing decisions.
The theme of Judge the Judges is both intended to deal with decisions in a serious manner and poke criticism at Judges as we consider justified.
No offence is intended by any of our comments, but strong criticism of poor Judicial decisions does appear from time to time and is intended to provoke thought and reflection, particularly from a victim perspective.