Let’s look at more than right to remain silent

The acquittal of Chris Kahui who was accused of murdering his twin sons has resulted in calls for a re-examination of people’s right to remain silent.



 Law Commissioner Sir Geoffrey Palmer says the time could be right to re-examine the right of people accused of crimes to remain silent in the face of police questioning.


His suggestion comes amid mounting anger that the killer or killers of twin babies Chris and Cru Kahui may never be brought to justice.

In the early days of the investigation into the deaths, police were hampered when the twins’ family refused to talk to them.

The twins’ father, Chris Kahui, was found not guilty this week, and police say no one else will face charges related to the killings.

Napier Labour MP and former criminal defence lawyer Russell Fairbrother yesterday called for a review of the right to silence of criminal suspects or those charged with a criminal offence.

He did not know whether Mr Kahui was “truly innocent”, or had received the benefit of the doubt in a case rife with uncertainties.

“But I do know that someone in that house truly knows what happened. It cannot be right that a guilty person is avoiding criminal sanction for this most heinous of crimes.”

The right to remain silent is definitely worth examining but why stop there? The Scottish law which enables a verdict of “not proven” is also worth considering.


So too is whether an inquisitorial system such as is used in France may be better than our adversarial one. The former aims to get to the truth, the latter depends on the prosecution’s ability to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt and the defence’s ability to establish that doubt.

2 Responses to Let’s look at more than right to remain silent

  1. truthseekernz says:

    If a defendent in that situation refused to speak, how would you deal with it? Torture? If they won’t say anything that would incriminate themselves, how can you force them not just to speak, but to tell the truth?

    In this same case, a law punishing C Kahui for not speaking would see him pointing the finger at M. King. Under the same law, she would point the finger at him, or someone else. Any other person would point the finger at one of them…..or some other person again.

    A jury would STILL have no option but to acquit.

    If you haven’t got the evidence, legally compelling someone to tell a lie that can’t be disproved is not help at all.


  2. homepaddock says:

    No-one could be forced to speak. See Stephen Franks: http://www.stephenfranks.co.nz/?p=379


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