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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 16. 12th July 1973

From the Courts

page 2

From the Courts

Photo of Magistrate's Court

A Mere Formality

Three unemployed men, all in their late forties, pleaded guilty before Mr Scully SM to charges on being unlawfully in a building. Prosecution evidence stated that the men had been seen entering the empty building and were later approached by the police. They had admitted to the police that they knew they had no right to be there and had taken shelter to have a drink. Prosecution also stated that there was no evidence of intention to commit any crime other than illegal entry.

Speaking in their defence the men said they had been fairly drunk and had sought shelter to continue drinking. One defendant said he was unemployed because he had only just come off a sickness benefit.

Mr Scully sentenced all the defendants to two months imprisonment. He confined his comments to saying that "calling for a probation report would be a mere formality."

Having known two of the defendants for several months, I would venture to disagree with Mr Scully. These two defendants are unlikely to be shocked into realising the errors of their ways by a term of imprisonment having experienced its fine rehabiltating effects before.

Neither man is a great menance to society, but rather they are menances to themselves, being heavy, regular drinkers, and in one case a drinker of methylated spirits. They will serve their term of imprisonment, come out, and then more than likely, immediately hit the bottle hard to make up for lost time.

The answer to a problem of this nature is complicated, the struggle for the rehabilitation of an alcoholic or near alcoholic is a long and difficult one. It very often commences by calling for a probation report, but of course, it can be more easily shelved by "dispensing with that formality."

The case in question only took a few minutes to decide, as so many cases do. The magistrate's court is always full and "justice" is rapid. But the answer to the question of petty crime is not to repeatedly imprison petty criminals and invalids in the name of "protecting society" All such people are themselves a part of society and the whole question of their treatment must always being from that reality.


Last Friday a young Maori girl appeared before Mr Scully on a charge of using obscene language in the Bistro Bar of the Royal Oak Hotel. There had been no previous meeting of the defendant and her legal aid counsel, who stood up and cheerily told the Magistrate that "he hadn't met his client yet." So there was a consultation at the back of the courtroom while another case was being heard. It took less than five minutes.

When the case came up the police prosecutor said that the defendant had been ordered out of the bar at 9.15 and had returned and "used the language complained of in a loud voice."

For the defence, counsel said that his client had been in a state of intoxication and had become antagonised on being asked to leave.

Fined $25 and costs. Legal aid lawyers are not noted for herculean efforts on their client's behalf. But anyone who has ever frequented the Bistro Bar would know that any "obscene language" is hardly a great rarity there. What was that old saying about the main crime is getting caught?

Ka Whawhai Tonu Matau

Mr Scully is a magistrate who is seldom lost for words on his home, ground.

When he recently fined a young Samoan worker for getting into a police car he was quick with a side splitting quip about the defendant "entering the lion's den". And when the police drop a charge against a person in the dock he is often able to elicit some humour from the situation when he asks the defendant concerned if he minds the police doing this.

But even such a witty magistrate as Mr Scully meets his Waterloo occasionally. Last Friday a man appeared before him on a charge of fighting in a public place. "Guilty or not guilty?' asked the clerk. The defendant hesitated and then requested legal advice, referring to a small piece of paper as he did so.

"Give me a look at that!" demanded the magistrate, reaching for it eagerly. The paper was passed to his worship. Mr Scully read it quickly to himself, thought for a second and then began to read aloud to the crowded court room.

"What to say when you appear in the box brother: 1) Make no plea (crossed out); 2) I ask for a week's remand (crossed out); 3) I ask for legal aid; 4) I ask for bail (crossed out).

"Remember: If you are arrested brothers and put in can/jail all you can do is: 1) Give your name; 2) Give your address; 3) Give the work you do. Say F....k all else to the police unless a Nga Tamatoa legal defence officer or your lawyer is with you and has given the ok. Say nothing else until you have contacted Nga Tamatoa Legal Defence Office or your lawyer."

There was an odd silence in the court as Mr Scully read these words. A policeman obligingly sniggered and then — nothing. Mr Scully scratched his cheek and looked at the paper again. The court waited as he read and scratched. Two minutes went by. "All right, you can have legal advice," said Scully.

Perhaps he couldn't read the small print on the paper, or perhaps he read it and preferred to keep it to himself. It reads: "To defend our people against racist injustice in New Zealand. Ka Whawhai Tonu Matau Ake Ake Ake. Patu."

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge

In the Lower Hutt Magistrate's Court last Tuesday nine young men pleaded guilty before Mr Patterson S.M. to having sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. In each case the prosecution evidence stated that the girl had been a willing party, in almost every case the acts had taken place at the girl's explicit invitation. Each case was the same, the defendant claiming that they had thought the girl to be 16 or more offering no other explanation and being subsequently fined $50 and court costs $5.

In one case Mr Patterson was not satisfied with the expression on the defendant's face. "Do you think this is amusing?" he asked. The defendant prudently denied that this was his opinion.

But Mr Patterson was not satisfied. "I can hasten to assure you that I don't find this amusing." He stopped for a second and suddenly shouted at the defendant, "What do you think this law was put in the statutes book for?"

"Dunno Sir."

"Naar!! And you don't bother to find out either! It was put on the books to save young girls from contamination. I'll tell you something of the history of this law. From 1870 to 1900 young girls were sent from England and sold in France. There's a lot of literature written about it, and this law exists to prevent young girls from being sold."

The young worker was silent, probably wondering what on earth this had to do with a promiscuous 13-year-old in New Zealand.

Mr Patterson continued: "And now you get into this with your filth! The best thing that could happen to you would be to have to pay maintenance and support of a child." — Fined $50 and costs.

It seems possible that the girl was in need of some help and attention. One of the defendants told us later that she kept "a notebook", containing at least 40 names. Whether a response to the invitation of such a girl should be accepted may certainly be questionable. But the question of whether it has anything to do with 19th Century white slave traffic is nothing less than ridiculous.


In the Lower Hutt Magistrate's Court on Tuesday 10 July Roger Wilson Steele, Editor of 'Salient', aged 23, appeared on a charge of Obscene Language. The complainant was Peter James Alty, a Police Inspector who is a part-time student of criminology at Victoria University. Steele entered a plea of Not Guilty. He was convicted and fined $15.