Simple Simon met a Chief Justice going to the fair

Now, the post title may be a bit unfair to Simon Power – I actually think he is one of the more intelligent members of the Cabinet – but his response to Chief Justice Sian Elias’ speech today indicates a complete lack of understanding of the respective roles of the Judiciary and the Executive. Maybe he is constrained politically by the likes of David Garrett. Who knows. But I would have expected better of him than this:

Chief Justice Sian Elias quoted from a speech today:

The country’s top judge is suggesting giving some prisoners an amnesty as a way of relieving prison overcrowding, but the Government has ruled out the idea.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias sparked the debate in a speech where she said the controversial idea should be considered.

“We need to look at direct tools to manage the prison population if overcrowding is not to cause significant safety and human rights issues.”

Dame Sian pointed to the system working in other countries to prevent overcrowding.

“Such solutions will not please many. . . but the alternatives and the cost of overcrowding need to be weighed.”

She also criticised the denial of bail and parole to inmates – an area the Government is considering tightening further.

“I question whether that strategy can reasonably be maintained,” she said.

Justice Minister Simon Power reponded bluntly:

This is not government policy. The Government was elected to set sentencing policy, judges are appointed to apply it.

Now, Simon, that is the way of thinking that leads to autocratic rule. The three wings of Government – the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary – must maintain independence from each other (one of the good things about MMP is that it has helped the forst two of these to do so).

Each have a role to play, and must play it without subjugation to any of the others. The Judiciary (ie Judges), through the operation of the Common Law, “make law” all the time. So does the Legislature (ie Parliament) “make law” by passing legislation.

But, apart from subordinate legislation, made by Order in Council or Ministerial Direction under empowering legislation, the Executive, of which Simon Power is a member as a Minsiter) does not make law.

That is where Simon Power has crossed the line. A Cabinet Minister implying the Chief Justice should butt out of an important debate on judicial issues is not a good look.

And, as a Judge who has had to sentence people herself, and hear appeals against sentences, I suspect she has a much better grasp of the reality of the justice system than someone who was a rather junior lawyer before becoming a Member of Parliament and who has now been elevated to the position of Minsiter of Justice.

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4 thoughts on “Simple Simon met a Chief Justice going to the fair

  1. Another toadism berating the compatance of a mininster.

    You are saying that the judge view has more value then the minister. Cool that is your view point.

    It is not mine.

    The judge has been in the system for a long time and may rightly be seen as so ingrained within the system that she can no longer “see the wood for the trees” in looking at alternatives. That is my view.

    To stop overcrowding in jails is simple.

    All criminals to stop their unlawful activity.

    Till they do, build more jails.

    See toad, we the public (in my opinion) are sick and tired of the “ingrained insiders” of the justice system telling us what we “have” to do with law breakers in our society.

    Good on the new minister having the gumption to call her into the line.

    Your assumption that the judge has “a better garp of the reality of the justice system” proves she is to close to the system to take into consideration the rights and wants of the victims of the prisoners.

    Quite frankly she is way out of touch with those desires.

  2. The judge has been in the system for a long time and may rightly be seen as so ingrained within the system that she can no longer “see the wood for the trees” in looking at alternatives. That is my view.

    Are you trying to say that Sian Elias isn’t radical enough in her views? Because your complaint about being ingrained in the system doesn’t make sense if you’re trying to argue she’s too radical- generally it’s outsiders, not insiders, who are prone to be radical.

    One would expect that if a punitive approach is needed that judges, corrections officers, and other people involved in the sentencing, managament, and rehabilitation of prisoners would be among the most vocal in advocating it, as insiders.

    See toad, we the public (in my opinion) are sick and tired of the “ingrained insiders” of the justice system telling us what we “have” to do with law breakers in our society.

    This is the first time it’s happened in generations, you must be very quick to tire. 😉

  3. Pingback: Kiwipolitico » Blog Archive » The role of the judiciary is to judge

  4. Ari,

    No, she can be as radical as she likes, however toads implication that the judge has a “better grasp of reality” then a “rather junior lawyer” is totally wrong.

    The heading starting with “Simple Simon” is indicative of a toadism. Vexed to the core.

    The judge has a view that the victims of crime should have even less say in the judicial process then we have now.

    Something I wholeheartedly disagree with as the justice system is surely set up as a service for the victim. Not as a service for the criminal.

    The corrections department is the service that provides for the criminal.

    Now how that is done is open to interpretation and should include many, if not all, of the suggestions that the judge makes, but is not a matter for the judicial system.

    The judges comments are scary because the judicial is now more interested in the criminal than the victim.

    In fact reading many of the comments from many sources, the victim barely gets a mention. Just google “chief justice comments” and ask yourself, is the victim even considered?

    What justice does the victim get? Becaue without getting justice, the victims will take (and are doing so more and more already) justice into their own hands.

    Interesting concept would be to do away with the justice system and the correction department and let victims sort out their own justice.

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