Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 9. 1st May 1974
From the Courts
From the Courts
A 35-year-old cook was fined $75 and costs when she appeared before Mr Hay SM for stealing two paperbacks and a baby's toy, to a total value of $1. She had previously pleaded guilty to the charge.
Mr Hay's summing-up comment was that he regarded the alleged offence as "a silly, stupid thing, done on the spur of the moment."
Perhaps Mr Hay should have been in Hamilton, where the city's mayor, Mr Minogue, (on the same day) could have given him some words of advice. Mr Minogue speaking to the Waikato Branch of the Economics Society, attacked land speculation and the philosophy that sustained it. This philosophy, one of "conventional wisdom", said that "it was a crime for an old lady to steal a loaf of bread from a supermarket, but right and proper for the captains of commerce to enrich themselves by any means however harmful to the mass of ordinary men and women."
"Fined $125 and costs.....sentenced to six month's periodic detention....jailed for 18 months". Any Evening Post court reporter knows how easy it is to sit behind the press bench and watch the "criminals" standing in the dock awaiting their just deserts. Judging from an incident in a Criminal Law Lecture at this university last week, lawyers must be in the same position, although in their case they prefer not to think about it. In this particular lecture the students were given the choice of whether to listen to a Polynesian man, who was willing to speak to them on the New Zealand judicial system and how it affected his race, or to listen to the lecturer give some tips on what would be appearing in the exam on that week. True to form, the law students voted (just about unanimously) in favour of hearing the lecturer speak on the exam.
When the accusation is made that lawyers, like the courts, are acting in the interests of the status quo, do we agree? Or are they merely "just doing a job from which they expect some reward"?
Two 17-year-old packers recently appeared before Mr Hay SM, pleading guilty to charges of shoplifting.
Prosecution evidence stated that the two girls had gone into a hairdressers. Before leaving, the older of the two had picked up a cigarette lighter and taken it with her. They then proceeded on to three other shops where they stole a pair of jeans (worth $17.75), a nightie ($19.20) and a blouse ($17.25). They were both remanded for entence.
On their next appearance before the same magistrate, they prosecutor pointed out that one of the defendants was 15-years old and not 17 as previously stated. The magistrate ordered her case to be transferred to the Children's Court.
The other defendant who had turned 17 just over a month previously, was told that she would get "another chance" (she had appeared previously for similar offences) and was consequently fined $160 ($35 and costs on each of the four charges).
Do large fines, such as this one, solve anything? Obviously it will have little effect on a person, who at 17 has run up quite a list of shoplifting offences. The "offence" did not seem too great to this particular girl, who laughed with her friend in the dock. What about her 15-year-old friend. The Police were obviously embarrassed about making a slip-up with her age, but did they ever consider the effect the appearance (with all its surrounding publicity) might have on this individual?
An accused person wished to change his plea of not guilty on a charge of assault to one of guilty. He claimed he originally did not understand what a charge of assault entailed. Mr Patterson SM said it was "the height of bad manners" to change a plea. The accused was allowed to plead guilty. The police stated the accused had grabbed a barman by the shirt and a fight broke out. Mr Patterson SM fined the accused $50 plus $5 court costs.
The court's distinction between the value of property and person often seems a little thin, as shown in two cases before Mr Hay SM recently.
The first concerned two seamen who pleaded guilty to receiving three bottles of whiskey, to the total value of $5.40.
Prosecution evidence stated that a cargo of whisky was loaded aboard their ship at Fiji, to be discharged at Wellington. On arrival at Wellington one of the whisky cartons was discovered missing. After a search of the ship, three bottles were found in the defendants' cabins. In explanation the men said they bought the bottles in Fiji.
Mr. Hay fined the two men $100 and costs and added that if this was not paid immediately, they would be sentenced to 15 days in jail.
In the other case a man pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife, the complainent. According to the Police, the assault resulted from an argument over the meal table. The defendant became annoyed and struck blows at his wife, knocking her to the floor. He then knelt on her stomach and slapped and clipped her over the ears. The woman was 6% months pregnant.
Mr Hay fined the man $100 and costs.
Section 46 Criminal Justice Act is a ruse courts have used to prevent prominent members of the community, influential businessmen and members of their families from being embarrassed by seeing their name in print in the local newspaper for a criminal offence. Section 46 allows the court to suppress the name and identification of an accused person. The factory workers who has to work overtime to survive and consequently steals from his employer and the solo mother with two children who steals from a supermarket will find no mercy from the courts and their names will be given prominence in newspapers. However, for the certain selected groups from out society their names and identification it seems shall forever remain disclosed. In a recent case, a man whose family is a 'household word' because of their business in New Zealand was up on a disgraceful charge. But that's all by law we are able to say.