- The Debate
- Get involved
- Constitutional review
- The Treaty of Waitangi
- Commonwealth membership
- Common Cause
Teina Pora and the Royal Perogative of Mercy
Advocates for Teina Pora including the brother of Susan Burdett, the woman he was convicted of murdering, are supporting another application for the Royal Perogative of Mercy. Their campaign highlights the kind of the power an elected head of State might be given to improve our justice system.
The term 'royal perogative' implies a wise and benevolent Head of State dispensing impartial justice to right wrongs and protect the people. In effect the decision on releasing and paying compensation to Pora after 21 years in prison will be made by Judith Collins and officials from the Ministry of Justice. The Governor-General will receive the application and forward it directly to the Minister for consideration. They might hire an independant arbiter and the final decision will more than likely be discussed at the cabinet table.
There are several options once we move to a New Zealand head of State. Government House could just retain the power and refer the matter to the Ministry of Justice as at present. That is the default position. It may be that they are given the power to bypass the Minister in order that Justice is seen to be free from Parliamentary and party political considerations. It all depends on whether voters want Government House to hold oversight powers. If so it may be advantageous if Government House retained a staff to deal with such matters or that the head of State have the power to appoint legal advisors independently of the Ministry. It all depends on how many New Zealanders think it is possible for a Minister of Justice to be swayed by other considerations either as a member of cabinet or of their party or, in extreme cases, their personal prejudices.
Whatever we choose we need to dispense with the idea that 'royal' means wise and impartial. We do not have a royal perogative. The fate of Teina Pora has nothing to do with today's British head if State. It is part of justice system open to any New Zealander who might be wrongly convicted of a crime. It is a decision made by a small group of New Zealanders on behalf of all New Zealanders.It affects all of us how that power is used