9 Jul 2012

PM rules out abolishing right to silence in serious cases

7:55 pm on 9 July 2012

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out getting rid of the right to silence in court cases where a defendant is accused of a serious crime such as murder.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust wants the right of an accused not to give evidence removed following the Scott Guy murder trial in which Ewen Macdonald was last week found not guilty of killing his brother-in-law.

The trust is reviewing the trial to ensure that no stone has been left unturned and is considering hiring investigators to look at evidence surrounding the killing at Feilding in 2010.

Chair Garth McVicar told Morning Report on Monday the trust also questions whether the right to silence in court is relevant in all situations.

Mr McVicar said judges in the United Kingdom can instruct the jury to take in consideration whether a defendant gives evidence or not.

He said the trust is requesting police information on the case through the Official Information Act and several lawyers have contacted him offering help.

However, John Key said on Monday the right to silence is a fundamental part of the justice system and the Government will not be making any changes.

The Law Society is also against getting rid of the right to silence in serious court cases. Criminal law spokesperson Jonathan Krebb says putting an obligation on an accused person to defend themselves would virtually signal that a person is guilty until proven innocent.