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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 23. September 17, 1968

Class distinction in law courts

Class distinction in law courts

Class distinction results in leniency for students in some New Zealand Courts, according to an allegation by the Labour M.P. for Westland, Mr P. Blanchfield, in Parliament recently.

Mr Blanchfield claimed that magistrates were lenient because they gave too much consideration to the possible repercussions of a conviction on the future career of students.

He said that as evidence of this he had enough newspaper clippings "to choke a whale".

"The magistrates even commented on the future of the students before them, and because they had a great career, they would not enter a conviction and just asked them to pay so much of the action." Mr Blanchfield said in Parliament.

"There are sons and daughters of good New Zealanders who have offended against society and do not classify as students, and they get their names published and fined."

"If anything, the boot should be on the other foot," he said. "Students should know better the demands of society."

A spokesman for the New Zealand Law Society said that they had received no complaints, either from their members or from the public, to substantiate the allegations that there were any "class or other improper distinctions" made by magistrates.

The Auckland Senior Magistrate, Mr M. C. Astley, denied that magistrates were becoming lenient when dealing with students. He said that all people were treated alike, whether they were students, apprentices or government employees.

He pointed out, however, that where a person could have his future affected by a conviction, magistrates sometimes adjourned proceedings for a few weeks and the accused was instructed to pay a fine by way of Court costs.

Mr Astley said he believed that comments that magistrates were becoming lenient usually canve from "armchair critics" who read a few newspaper accounts of Court cases but did not hear of other cases.