MENZ Issues

Making the Punishment Fit The Crime

This line is taken from a comic opera, by Gilbert and Sullivan. Although spoken in jest, there is more wisdom in these operas, than I have ever seen in action at the Familycaught! This is the essence of a working court system. If they cannot do this, then they are worthless to society, just a drain on resources.

Alice in Wonderland has recently been compared favourably to the NZ High Court. The children were right all along! The courts system in NZ has severe problems, if you ever compare what it promises society, to the outcomes and the costs.

There is a major value for money problem, that as yet, has not been successfully addressed. The legal workers try to say, don’t budget for courts, we must spend what it takes. This is clearly not true, a dollar spent on legal aid, is a dollar not spent on a doctor or a teacher or a new hospital building.

Society must start listening to it’s members, who have been through these courts and listen carefully to what they are saying. Talk to your family, about their court experiences. Talk to your workmates, about their Familycaught experiences.

You may end up being forced to use the services of one of these courts, one day.

Lets consider an everyday Familycaught hearing:

The first step is to clarify the situation.

How skilled are Familycaught judges at “weighing” evidence?
If a mistake was made in a previous hearing, how skilled are these judges at sorting out past mistakes, so that this hearing can get it right and move on?

When you deal with doctors, how easy is it to get any past mistakes corrected?

When it comes to making the punishment fit the crime, then it is important to understand the FULL set of options available.

When “lay judges” only select from a reduced set of options, they are prejudging the situation.

Gary Becker was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1992, for giving a mathematical proof that prejudice only gives a benefit, when one party places a greater value on a loss to another party, than on their own benefit. This concept has been known generally, for over two thousand years.

NZ legislation is silent on value issues, so should the judges personal values about “real men should be at work for 40+ hours per week”, be applied to your family?

If you can support your family on 30 hours a week, should a judge set you to working 40 – 50 hours per week and let your Xwife care for your children without being obliged to work?

Whose values should be applied?

Prejudice is a dead loss game, but NZ Familycaught judges don’t yet understand this!

Professor Mark Henaghen Otago University, in his book Family Law, tries to explain the Familycaught approach in custody disputes. I understand that Prof Henaghen is an academic and I am not sure if he has actually acted in court. It appears he has only ever read published cases, which show the Familycaught in the light that it wants the public to see it. I believe that Professor Henaghen is using the same twisted meanings on English words, that judges use in their reading of legislation so that what they write is very misleading when read by a citizen.

Sanford L Braver discusses how courts approach custody, in his book Divorced Dads shattering the myths. Reading his book, it is possible to reconcile experience in Familycaught, with his discussion of how judges approach these issues.

Chapter 4 Standards of Living is quite relevant to child support issues in NZ.

The chapter on Child Custody is excellent, in terms of understanding the dully simplified way that “judges” try to think their ways through custody cases.

Braver’s book does not address the issues about the quality of lay judges “weighing” evidence. Most of the problems in Familycaught arise from unskilled weighing of evidence, associated with dragging cases out to generate more income for the lawyers.

In NZ, judges are appointed from practicing lawyers, with 7 years of experience.

In Europe, judges do standard lawyer training. Then they have a further 4 years of training, some of it work experience in courts and law practices and some academic training in judicial issues:

Weighing evidence
Using Bayes Theorem in calculating probability associated with evidence
(Look up Bayes theorem, prosecutors fallacy and defense lawyers fallacy in Wikipedia)

Professional level skills for weighing evidence were discussed by Judge Arthur Tomkins, in 2002.

The Role and Use of Expert Witnesses in Trials Judge Arthur Tompkins 7 November 2002

These ideas have not appeared in any published cases in NZ, so it seems that the ideas have never moved into the practice of the NZ courts, other than for understanding DNA evidence. This shows how important it is, to have judges with professional level training.

NZers cannot really complain about judges skills, if they expect “lay” judges to provide judicial services in NZ!

Are you happy to have untrained social workers roaming the streets, taking children, with the checks and balances provided by untrained “lay” judges in Familycaught?

I prefer to gamble with money in investments. I don’t want to gamble with my children, by being forced to present my case before “lay” judges, who lack professional level training to be a judge.

Thus NZ is essentially using “lay” judges, that is people who lack any professional level training to be judges.

We have Justices of the Peace, remember Jim Bailey’s aborted trial in Tauranga.
We have District Court and High Court Judges (and familycaught judges), who have only basic lawyers training.

Thus, it should be no surprise that we have such a poor record of court hearings getting it right first time!

Look up the following in Wikipedia:
Moira Woods
Sir Roy Meadow
Sally Clark case
Defendant’s fallacy
prosecutor’s fallacies

It is important that we understand our limitations in life.

When we have accusations, about incidents that have occurred in private, then trying to find out what happened is fraught with risk of getting it wrong.

Anyone who is brave enough to claim they can reliably find the truth, without hard evidence, is deluding themself. Don’t let them delude you as well. An inquisitorial approach allows investigation until the situation has been clarified well enough, so that decisions can be based on solid ground. The Adversarial approach may be quicker, but carries large risks of decisions based on poor or incorrect information. (The adversarial approach garners more money for lawyers and generates more work for judges.)

When a court “finds facts”, there is always a risk of mistake. Even with judges having professional training, this risk will still be present, to a significant degree.

The art to minimising self inflicted damage, is to act on information, only to the extent that it can be relied upon. This is why hanging has been abolished, due to the practical difficulties judges found, to later correct mistakes properly.

Just as important, is the quality of legislation. The Domestic Violence Act was passed on the initiative of the then Chief Justice. Even though the high probability of breaches of natural justice were pointed out, prior to the passing of this legislation. After the Act has been running for over a decade, there has been no reliable investigation of whether this Act is achieving anything at all (for society). It has made more work for lawyers. It appears to have given many children reduced contact with a good father and increased time with a manipulative mother.

Surely this is an important issue and should be looked into, rather than just let a destructive Act of Parliament stay on the books?

Lets have a campaign to get rid of the existing “lay” judges and appoint judges with relevant professional level training.

Best regards,
Murray Bacon