Bar Association voices concern after criticism of Auckland shooter sentencing

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Auckland CBD gunman Matu Reid, 24, who died in a shootout with police after killing two construction workers at the One Queen Street site. Photos / Hayden Woodward / Supplied

The anger aimed at the judiciary in the wake of last Thursday’s horrific killings in Auckland’s Commercial Bay is of concern to the New Zealand Bar Association.

According to the New Zealand Bar Association, unfair criticism of sentencing judgements could have unsettling repercussions for the legal system, as well as society at large.

At the time of the shooting, Matu Reid, 24, was serving a sentence of five months’ home detention delivered in the Auckland District Court on March 28 after he admitted charges of impeding breathing, injuring with intent to injure, wilful damage and male assaults female. Strangulation carries a maximum term of imprisonment of seven years.

The sentencing notes of Judge Stephen Bonnar KC show a probation officer assessed Reid as having a low risk of reoffending. The probation officer recommended home detention as a suitable sentence.


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Bar Association Criminal Committee co-chairman James Rapley KC said although discussion around his sentencing is, in general, a good thing, when it is based on misinformation, it becomes harmful.

“Criticism of sentencing decisions by individual judges is easy to make, but can ignore the wide range of information and factors which the judges have before them and must consider,” Rapley said.

Judges cannot engage in public discourse or engage in self-defence in certain situations, according to Bar Association president Maria Dew KC, because of the way our legal system functions.

“As well as the personal difficulties this creates for the judge and his family, the wider implications of the undermining of our justice system through ill-informed comment on social media is also worrying,” Dew said.


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She said that Judge Bonnar KC, who oversaw this case’s punishment, is being unfairly disparaged.

Rapley explained judges must make their decisions according to the facts and follow the processes and considerations set out in the Sentencing Act and other similar cases.

Judges, according to Rapley, must base their conclusions on the evidence presented and adhere to the procedures and standards outlined in the Sentencing Act and by precedent cases.

“Our sentencing system is a product of a carefully developed framework,” Rapley said

“The Crown did not appeal his decision, and that can be taken as acknowledgement that Judge Bonnar’s decision was accepted as appropriate.

“These are not arbitrary decisions made by judges.”

The Bar Association encouraged those curious about the issue of Reid’s sentence to not rely on “incorrect statements in social media”.

They said the Bar Association “is totally supportive of our judges”.

“New Zealanders should be proud that our judiciary is made up of people of his understanding, legal expertise and compassion,” Kapley said.

Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.


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