7 Mar 2018

Marceau report: Andrew Little vows to make changes

5:42 am on 7 March 2018

Justice Minister Andrew Little is promising changes following a damning coroner's report into the death of Auckland teenager Christie Marceau.

Christie Marceau

Christie Marceau Photo: Facebook / The Christie Marceau Charitable Trust

Ms Marceau's killer, Akshay Chand, was out on bail, facing charges of kidnapping and threatening to rape Ms Marceau, when he killed her in 2011. He was subsequently found not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.

In her report, the Coroner, Katharine Greig, made a series of recommendations, most of them centred on better information-sharing between the courts, the police and the health system, so judges are fully informed when they are making bail decisions.

During the inquest into Ms Marceau's death, it emerged that the judge who granted Chand bail didn't know he lived a short walk from his victim's house.

Mr Little said he found the lack of information-sharing between agencies "disturbing".

"I was surprised that in this day and age, the court is not getting good, timely information on particular things like the health status of somebody who was clearly a dangerous offender."

It was "absolutely critical" that judges had the most up-to-date information when they were making bail decisions about serious offenders and the risk they posed to the public, Mr Little said.

He was vowing to fix the failing identified in the coroner's report.

"In the end, the central government is responsible for the court system and the systems that are available for the court to function.

"When it comes to information being exchanged between justice officials, between health officials, between the police, it is our job to ensure the systems are up to the mark and enable judges to make good quality decisions and keep the public safe.

"And I'm determined that as a result of this coroner's report that we will do that."

If law changes were necessary to do that, the government would look into that, Mr Little said.

Meanwhile, District Court judges want a trial scheme - which gives them all the police and court information about a defendant in bail hearings - to be rolled out nationwide.

Chief District Court judge Jan-Marie Doogue said she was concerned by the quality of information available in bail hearings.

She said an initiative to provide judges with a pack that gathered together all the information held about a defendant in certain violence cases had been trialled in four regions, and judges wanted to see that expanded.