Friday, 28 August 2009

Boring law

My children all consider my profession very boring-at least in part because I do not tell them much about what I am doing out of the habit of keeping confidentiality. Much of the human interest is taken away for them But, there are some ares of law that make my eyes glaze over, just as my children react. Tax is not one of those because there are often stories of human striving or great failures or even audacity and immense greed. These extremes provide a moment of jawdropping surprise or a great laugh.
What leaves me cold are those esoteric examinations of the fine details of resource management law as applied to competing supermarkets seeking to exclude the other from a site. Town planning now sounds a bit perjorative, even Stalinist. If we describe it as resource management then it sounds as though we are being wise custodians of the planet. But what ordinary citizen cares about the location of a supermarket or petrol station, save in terms of their own convenience? How is this "saving the planet"? The judges inflicted with these applications must feel like telling the parties to pick up their toys and go away.

Friday, 21 August 2009

More sentencing

Continuing my theme on sentencing-in the Dominion Post this morning Judge Moran questioned why the Police had charged 3 men with intellectual disabilities for minor offences. What indeed is the point-is this to deter people with disabilities from other offending? I know nothing about the background, or the extent of their disabilities. But, the whole exercise is a complete waste of time if those men operate at a child's level, where they do not understand that what they have done is supposedly criminal. Children do the same things all the time-but are not dragged into court. Even if these men are fined, the fine would come out of a disability benefit. If they were jailed that would be inhumane. They may not not able to undertake community work-I cant say without any more information. So, what does the judge do? All he can do is discharge without conviction, or conviction and discharge. Shame on whoever thought this was a good idea.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


My blog is a bit obsessed with sentencing of late. A story from the New Zealand Herald is a change from the usual rant by the outraged however. The courageous young woman says she forgives her attackers, and while she thinks they should get a stiff jail sentence, (and I am sure the judge will oblige), this real compassion is a refreshing change.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


I recently read an article about Rikers Jail in New York . For anyone who thinks of jails as a soft option, the reality of this article is sobering. It also demonstrates that we have a confusion between the function of jails as holding pens for criminals, but then fill them with inmates with mental health problems. We need to evolve better models, to provide the appropriate place for the career criminal and those with problems. I suspect the prison for career criminals would be small.
Justice France realised this when he sentenced in the recent case over the maketu curse, and despite Trevor Mallard's intemperate response, the result shows both mercy, and recognition of the unusual nature of the case. Jail simply would not achieve anything for the family, who are no doubt struggling to understand their own actions. But, they did receive substantial sentences of community work, which is not an easy option.

Monday, 10 August 2009

AMINZ Conference

I was at the Arbitrators and Mediators Conference over last weekend. Among other papers I presented one on an update for Building and Construction Law, which will be posted on the AMINZ website. I also received my Fellowship Certificate, and a prize for Best Mediation Agreement. Apart from the personal matters, the conference was a great success, with many well considered papers and presentations., and a real tribute to the effert of the organisers. It seems that alternative dispute resolution is growing and actively taking over court work. If we could learn to mediate more crime perhaps we wouldnt need to put prisoners in shipping containers!