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Saturday 10 October 2009

A Matter of Urgency?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 14th August 2009

It's fairly rare that Parliament could ever be accused of being a virtuous circle - but provocation defence abolition seems to be one exception. So, why not pass the proposed abolition bill under urgency?
No sooner had Charles Chauvel and Lianne Dalziel's abolitionist private members bill been drawn from the ballot box, than the government announced that it was introducing its own legislation to repeal Section 169 of the Crimes Act, which currently permits provocation defences to mitigate what would otherwise be charges of murder, downgrading them to the lesser penalty of manslaughter convictions. Still, Charles and Lianne deserve some of the credit for taking the initiative and pushing the government hard over this issue. If all goes well, it seems that the abolition bill is assured of bipartisan support.
This raises the attendant question, why not pass this bill under urgency? After all, Victoria legislated for abolition before us, although the circumstances may have been slightly different, the Law Commission has prepared two issues papers on the subject, and why should anyone ever have to suffer through the ordeal that parents, families and whanau of deceased or seriously  injured provocation defence plaintiffs have to go through because the accused is too cowardly to face the consequences of their violent, antisocial behaviour?
As I predicted earlier, once the legislation is drafted, this should become one of the easiest LGBT-related reforms to date. It is a criminal justice reform, it enhances sentencing severity and arguably, LGBT homicide and aggravated assault victims aren't the only potential victims of a provocation defence injustice under Section 169.
Provocation's defenders are weak and isolated. By pitting himself against the parliamentary National Party hierarchy over this issue, ex-ACT MP Stephen Franks is probably going to erase himself from future high ranking party list consideration. As for the fundamentalist fringe elements, they really should take a look at themselves. They aren't mainstream enough to do any harm this time. As for potential 'risks' like Tamihere, Radio Live might want to forewarn him about the consequences of further rabble rousing onair whinge sessions over this issue.
With provocation abolition now apparently inevitable, what about adoption reform? Is this really a bridge too far for the Key administration, given that only three hundred or so occur each year? As with provocation defence abolition, the Law Commission has done earlier groundwork, other Commonwealth jurisdictions have led the way, and the current archaic legislation is out of touch with bicultural realities and family diversity in contemporary New Zealand society. One wonders how long it will remain that way...

Craig Young - 14th August 2009

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