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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 25. 3rd October 1973

From the Courts

From the Courts

Image of Magistrate's Courts

John Arnold Govan was charged with failing as an alcoholic to report to the Salvation Army Home "The Bridge". Apparently under the impression that he was no longer welcome there he had gone to Palmerston and got a permanent job for himself. He also said that the AA was prepared to help him and that he didn't want to go back to 'The Bridge'.

The Magistrate said that as he was drunk when arrested he didn't seem to be doing very well on his own, so he was sentenced to 14 days in prison while "The Bridge" decided whether they wanted him back.

It would seem that this country has too many alcoholics to look after to be able to discourage those who want to be independent and help themselves.


After the Germaine Greer case New Zealand got a reputation as a prudish country with regard to its obscene language laws.

An 18-year-old girl was convicted and fined $25 this week for swearing as police were arresting her for being underage in a hotel.

The prosecution said that there were a number of people standing around at the time. There was no evidence however that they were offended or that they had even heard. They were probably over 20 and as both offending words had been passed in written material by the Indecent Publications Tribunal it seems that adult New Zealanders are presumed to be unusually sensitive to spoken words.

Although obscene language may be upsetting or embarrasing at the time, is it sufficiently important to give an 18-year-old girl a conviction for?


A not guilty plea to a charge in the Magistrate's courts takes time, witnesses and care on the part of the police. A guilty plea can be dealt with far more expediently. In the magistrate's court this week the police asked for a fortnight's remand in a case involving a not guilty plea. The explanation was that the police witness was ill. But it was the fifth remand they had asked for. All the Magistrate could suggest in granting the remand was that the defendant should make a fuss about costs when the case was finally heard. It seems that even the magistrates may be getting a little tired of a tactic that is being used increasingly often by the police. It costs them nothing, it costs the magistrate nothing — only the defendant suffers the inconvenience and the loss of money and time.


Underaged drinkers found in a hotel with a glass of beer in front of them are charged with being under age and also with possession of an intoxicating liquor. Magistrates usually convict and fine $10 on the first charge and convict and discharge on the second. Thus there are two convictions and sometimes two fines from one small incident.


A man who had been told to leave a hotel was standing on the footpath outside. He was told to move three times by a constable and when he refused he was arrested for obstructing the footpath. He pleaded guilty and was fined $20. Generally accepted definitions of obstruction are "to block up, to hinder from passing, to shut off or to hamper".

Merely standing on a footpath, even if a policeman has told you to move doesn't appear to fit into any of these definitions.