It's my birthday, and I really can't be arsed trying to write an important or clever post. So just a short post on something I read that impressed me.
When you're an ACT MP and your time comes, you can go one of two ways. You can do a Muriel Newman and set up a right-wing thinktank in order to expound your views on "Maori privilege" and the "myth" of climate change, or you can go back to your day-job and achieve something closer to sanity.
Deborah Coddington appears to have done the latter. During her time as an ACT MP I had little time for Coddington, and she took positions on issues that I felt were wrong. But either I've softened or she has (I don't think I have), because now I often find myself agreeing with much (though not all) of what she writes. Since moving away from ACT she has started to sound so... well, reasonable.
Her opinion piece in Saturday's Herald is a good example, and it was a pleasure to read a former ACT MP laying into the Sensible Sentencing Trust and Family First. The close involvement of the SST with ACT continues to cause ructions within a party that has a strong libertarian following. The SST is led by authoritarians and reactionaries who think the answer to society's problems is to use state power to crush those who don't conform to approved norms. Coddington's sharp rebuke of the SST most likely reflects the opinions of many within ACT.
Coddington laments the rise in the "cult of victimology". She is right to identify this as an issue, and it's one the Chief Justice raised last year, although she was publicly slapped down by Simon Power for doing so. The current trend of placing victim rights at the forefront of everything that happens in the justice system jeopardises some of the most fundamental principles of the justice system - impartiality, reason and the rule of law. It may sound callous to say so, but there can be no room for emotion in the decisions judges and juries must make.
We are now used to seeing the tears of the grieving mother, or the heartbroken partner, as victim impact statements are given, but we dare not ask how these images serve the greater ends of justice. We are told that we have no right to question the central involvement of victims in the justice system, because we cannot understand what it is like to lose a loved one to an act of thuggery, or to ourselves be the victim of a vicious crime. We are told in no uncertain terms to shut up.
And I understand those sentiments. If someone hurt one of my children I can only imagine what I would want to do to the person.
But the justice system needs to balance the interests of many people. Offenders have rights too. So do we as a society. We have a right to expect our courts will act rationally and reasonably, and not give over to the lynch-mob.
So well done to Deborah Coddington.*
* No, this is not a satirical post. I actually meant that.