Police under fire from judge

A judge has criticised police for failing to provide burglary victims’ statements for a court hearing, more than three weeks after he asked for them.

Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll made sure his comments get through to the head of prosecutions in Christchurch, Sergeant Anna Lloyd, by ordering them to be typed up and sent to her.

He went ahead with a sentencing indication hearing for the alleged burglar today, in spite of the law requiring that the judge have the victim impact statements available at the hearing.

The hearing involved seven burglaries, but Judge O’Driscoll only had reports from three victims after asking for the other reports on February 5, and having the inquiry followed up by court staff this week.

Sentencing indication hearings are not allowed to be reported, but Judge O’Driscoll gave permission for his comments about the police to be reported in this case.

The hearing was originally scheduled for Monday, but was put off for two further days for the statements to be provided but again nothing had happened. The police prosecutor in court apologised.

Judge O’Driscoll said: “I don’t know why I haven’t received these reports, particularly when I asked for them a number of weeks ago.

“It may be that the victims aren’t interested, although I doubt that. It may be they can’t be contacted or the police resources may be such that they don’t have time to contact the victims.

“It is encumbent on the police to provide the court with details of why victim impact statements are not provided.”

He decided to go ahead without the reports because the defendant was being held in custody and he did not want to delay the hearing again.

Another Christchurch judge, Judge Gary MacAskill, gave the police a dressing down in court for “professional incompetence” at a sentencing in June 2016, when they provided victim impact statements in a driving fatality case on the day of the sentencing. They reached the judge just as the sentencing session began.

“It is all too common. This is just another example,” said the judge at the end of the sentencing session. “It is professional incompetence on the part of the police.”

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