A rare occasion when the champion of the criminal, the NZ Herald, actually takes the side of police, so it’s worth highlighting since it’s a rare slip up in their usual anti-authoritarian stance.
Statistics rule our world in many ways, but their value is surely taken too far when they tell us the rate of successful criminal prosecutions is too high. That is what the New Zealand Law Society said when Statistics New Zealand reported the conviction rate to be its highest in at least 35 years. Last year, 83.2 per cent of people charged in our courts were convicted. Prosecution success rates have risen in 10 of the past 11 years.
“It’s heading the wrong way,” said Law Society president Jonathan Temm. “Our level should be constantly around the 75 per cent mark. Anything over 80 per cent (means) people are pleading guilty to things that in the past they would not have been convicted of.”
Really? How was that figure pre-determined to be the benchmark of justice? It is reminiscent of school exams in the days of “scaling”. If much more than 50 per cent of pupils passed the qualification, it meant the exam was not hard enough.
In that event, the education authorities used to scale back all marks so only the desired proportion passed. If more pupils than usual had been smart enough, or had studied hard enough, to pass that year, well, tough luck for some of them. At least, there is no suggestion some of each year’s convictions should be quashed to reduce the rate to 75 per cent retrospective, but that is a small mercy. Why can we not simply celebrate a rising success rate for those who bring charges to court?
It shows clearly that Police are doing an excellent job at deciding what will succeed in front of a court and what will be a waste of time or is hopeful thinking. I, personally, can’t see any down-side to criminals being convicted at higher rates. All this against a backdrop of a reduction in over-all crime! Read more »