Saturday, February 21, 2015

Experience of a jury foreman

An anonymous comment came in over night on an old forgotten post about Mark Lundy and the group who supports his innocence, FACTUAL.  I thought it worth sharing:

In 2005, I was Jury Foreman at a Murder trial in the Auckland High Court. The trial lasted 3 weeks, followed by 36 hours of deliberation. What impressed me most about that experience, was the number of my fellow jurors who had made up their mind about the defendant's guilt or innocence, long before the trial was completed! The inevitable result was a "hung jury" followed by a retrial, some 4 months later. The ultimate verdict was one that I expected. What I had NOT expected was the fickleness and prejudice that 12 "ordinary New Zealanders" allowed to influence their ability to assess evidence - fairly and impartially. My experience (and naturally, you are free to differ in your opinion) is that all trials should be heard and assessed by a panel of judges - experts in Law and not influenced in their thinking by the colour of someone's skin, their age or any other demographic that activates a juror's personal values. There is only one requirement worth it's salt in a court-room: impartial, objective facts and responses - and not subjective, emotive reactions.
I've never been on a jury. Was called once but it was when my first born was under one and I asked to be excused. What is your experience, if you have one?

(I would note that the commenter also had 'expectations' about the verdict. Not sure what he intended by that remark.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

More ambitious targets for welfare reduction announced - but not by Tolley

According to Bill English in parliament yesterday:

We are extending the target to reduce welfare dependency beyond those who are somewhere near ready for work to people on all main benefits, including those who may not have worked for some time.
The new targets are detailed here:

Mrs Bennett said the new targets are:
Result 1 -  A 25 per cent reduction (from 295,000 people as at June 2014 to 220,000 as at June 2018) in the total number of people receiving main benefits and a $13 billion reduction in the long-term cost of benefit dependence, as measured by an accumulated Actuarial Release, by June 2018.
This replaces the current target of a 30 per cent reduction - 78,000 people to 55,000 people – in the number of working-age recipients of Jobseeker Support who have continually received benefits for more than 12 months...
Mrs Bennett said the change to the welfare reduction target recognised that many people who were not on Jobseeker Support also wanted to work and they deserved the same levels of support as jobseekers to do that.
“We know that around 90 per cent of people who went on benefits aged 16 or 17 also lived in benefit-dependent homes as children. This reinforces the urgency and importance of getting people in to work to improve their circumstances, and to help break the cycle of inter-generational welfare dependence.”

 Give the actuarial work that confirmed the deep dependency lies mainly amongst beneficiaries NOT on the Jobseeker benefit, the original target was senseless and thoroughly unambitious. The new one represents a much bigger number (despite the percentage change being confusingly lower).

To put 220,000 into some sort of context, since the late eighties, the lowest the total number of people on working age benefits has been was 264,000 in 2007.

(As an aside I am wondering why the current Minister for MSD, Anne Tolley, wasn't involved in announcing the new target. Seems odd. Other new targets were announced by respective Ministers.)

Update: Something was nagging in my memory about these numbers not being new. They are of course what National promised pre-election.From their 'plan':