One of the problems of a small place is sometimes that lack of interesting voices. I am not an expert on penal policy, but I would say that one might hope for greater debate over rates of imprisonment. It is this context that the 'controversy' over the Chief Justice's remarks on the effectiveness of imprisonment might be considered. It is both true that judges like the rest of us should talk only about matters on which they have some expertise, but that unlike the rest of us they do need to be aware that what they say has a weight because of the special constitutional role in which they operate which ought to make them pause before talking. But it is even more true that judges have a unique role of speaking truth from the perspective of their office. This seems to me unproblematic. It seems to me bound up with whole notion of a Chief Justice that on occasion he or she will say things with which people will disagree. New Zealand is lucky to have an interesting Chief Justice, who commands a great deal of respect amongst the legal community. How she chooses to deploy that respect is within her notion of what her office involves, that is the trust that the Governor –General placed in her when she was appointed. If she does it unwisely, she like all of other public figures who do that, will dissipate that respect. Personally I cannot imagine the comments that she has made have done anything of the sort. That is just not because I might agree with the points she made. In the past she has made points in speeches which I disagreed with. Different Chief Justices will take a different view of what that balance is. One of the best of our Chief Justices was Stout, and he seems all the better for promoting enlightened views of punishment while he was Chief Justice and his other extra-judicial roles such as founding my University. We should not lose necessarily lose the talents and views of some of best people because one of their roles is to administer justice according to the law. But I can also say there seems little wrong with the Minister's response either. He is quite right. In the end it is the Government that governs, and that is how it should be. It perfectly right that his job and the job of the Government in which is serves is to implement New Zealand its view of what New Zealanders want. I for one hope that both continue to say interesting things, as always we are better for the airing of views. Geoff McLay, Reader


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