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Man with possible dementia may get strike

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Judith Collins
Judith Collins

Wellington, July 21 NZPA - The 69-year-old man with Parkinson's disease and possible dementia who was charged with assault after grabbing the breasts of a woman in his care home would be excused from trial if he was found to have a mental impairment, Police and Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.

The man, who has name suppression, is accused of grabbing the woman's breasts, Radio New Zealand reported.

He was charged with indecent assault and common assault and was being held in Rimutaka Prison near Wellington because his family would not look after him.

If convicted he could be given a strike under the three strikes law.

Ms Collins said she could not talk about a matter that was before the court and would not discuss specific cases.

Anyone charged with a crime must be found fit to go on trial, she said.

"Someone who has a mental impairment may well may not be fit to be tried.

"There is also the defence of being found not guilty on the basis of insanity."

The 69-year-old's lawyer had not raised either of those issues, Ms Collins said.

"I would suggest that people just wait until the full facts (of this case) come out."

Ms Collins said this case should not be judged on what the man's lawyer said.

She said the three strikes legislation already contained safeguards for substantially mentally impaired people who are charged with serious violent offences.

"If a person with mental health issues is found guilty of, or pleads guilty to, a qualifying offence at any of the three stages, the court has the option of discharging the person without conviction."

If someone is discharged without conviction the three strikes law does not apply.

If someone was convicted of their third strike the court could take into account circumstances of the offence and offender that would make it manifestly unjust to order sentence without parole, Ms Collins said.

"The mental health of the offender may be a factor that the judge takes into consideration in deciding if it would be manifestly unjust to serve the sentence without parole.

"If parole was allowed, the offender would not necessarily spend the maximum term in prison."

That does not apply to murder or manslaughter which are covered by different rules.

Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove said Ms Collins and ACT MP David Garrett, who put forward the three strikes legislation, now faced the embarrassing prospect of having to amend the law to account for people with mental health problems.

"The point is that under this law judges don't have any discretion, they have to give the maximum sentence for a third offence."

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