Thursday, 22 October 2009

Supreme Court

I find it hard to believe that the Supreme Court has taken on a decision on a $63 medical fee. in Barr v New Zealand police SC 34/2009 on 21 October 2009 a ridiculous appeal from the District Court on whether Barr should have paid the doctors fee of $102.60 on his driving with excess blood alcohol conviction. Mr Barr considered that this was outside of the jurisdiction to order payment of medical expenses. He appealed on this ground to the High Court, who agreed, but then the matter went to the Court of Appeal, who held that the Costs in Criminal Cases Act did give jurisdiction. He then took this matter to the Supreme Court. In the meantime an amendment, which is not retrospective, was passed to regularise the position. While the courts cannot control the ability of parties to appeal, where they have such rights, I am astonished that the Supreme Court agreed to listen to this appeal. Even more surprising is that each party had two counsel in the Supreme Court. No doubt the parties say that it is an important point of principle. This must be rubbish because the conviction fine and disqualification of driving were not affected. It does not go to proof of the criminal charge, nor to the evidence. It does not even affect the admissibility of the evidence of blood alcohol content. Altogether, the appeal appears to have been a pointless exercise, no doubt detracting from time spent on more important appeals such as whether appellants should have received two years six months jail instead of three years two months. In the 1980s I recall Sir Owen Woodhouse commenting that the Court of Appeal was not there to tinker with sentences. In 2009 obviously the priorities have changed.

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