21 Jan 2016

Minister defends comment on judge's ruling

5:31 pm on 21 January 2016

Corrections Minister Judith Collins is defending commenting on a judge's decision, after being told by the Criminal Bar Association she should should keep out of judges' court decisions.

Judith Collins being appointed as a Minister again 14.12.15.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ms Collins told Checkpoint with John Campbell yesterday that it was a wrong call to put a man with a history of evading police on electronically monitored bail.

Mathew Kidman removed his electronic monitoring bracelet early on Friday morning and has been avoiding the police and his family since. He was on bail to a residence in Upper Hutt, facing two charges of unlawful sexual connection.

Ms Collins said Department of Corrections did not recommend he receive electronically monitored bail and she also had no reason to believe police were happy with that decision.

She said yesterday the decision was "not up to police or Corrections, it's up to a judge".

"In my opinion, and in Corrections' opinion, this was the wrong call... You have to say it was an unusual decision but a judge has made that."

She went on to say that ministers did not criticise judges and they made the best decisions with the information they had.

Criminal Bar Association president Tony Bouchier said Ms Collins had never been respectful of the role judges played.

"She's taking a punch at someone who can't punch back," Mr Bouchier said.

Judges were too often being criticised by outsiders who did not know all the facts of the cases, he said.

"Having been a practising lawyer and minister of the Crown she understands the concept of separation of powers, that the judiciary don't poke their nose into politics and vice versa."

He said as Ms Collins was not present to hear what the judge said in mitigation, her statements were based on ignorance.

"Judith Collins has a history of criticising judges publicly as a minster of the Crown and as a politician and really she should just stop it - she knows it's wrong."

Mr Bouchier said he did not think there should be a formal investigation into Ms Collin's comments.

"But I think that the Attorney General should have a chat to her and remind her of her responsibilities."

Ms Collins today rejected the criticism.

"If I'm asked if it's worked out well the answer's going to have to be no it hasn't worked out well," she told Morning Report.

"But I don't at all criticise judges, and I never have."