Ashburton Grardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. MONDAY, JULY 3, 1905. THE CRIMINAL CODE.
As a result of the agitation that recently sprang up in Christchurch over what is known as "the iniquity caae " it is now proposed to amend the Criminal Code so a 1? to extend from one month to six months the time within which informations may be laid making charges of criminally assaulting girls under sixteen years of age. The amending Bill also proposes to give the authorities power to exclude young persons from Court during the hearing of disgusting cases and power to prohibit the publication of the detaik of those cases in the newspapers. The last mentioned provision will, we* hope, be rejected by the House without hesitation. To encroach on the liberty of the Press in the manner suggested by the framer of the amending measure would undoubtedly be a retrograde f-tep, and moreover, in view of the methods followed by the New Zealand press in these cases, it is one that we fail to see the reason for. The newspapers of this colony have set a high standard in this as in other matters bearing on the general welfare, and wherever details of a disgusting nature have bean published, it has been for a reason far removed from any desire to ponder to the vicious and prurient tastes of a certain section of the public. The day for giving the authorities power to shackle the press is over, and tho only possible policy nowadays in these matters is to trust to the good sense and judgment of those who conduct the newspapers of the colony. Tho proposal to exclude young people from Court during the progross of cases of a disgusting end obscene nature i 3 a good one, and we hope to see it passed by the House. A great deil of harm can be done to youthful minds by the hoaring of details of certain offences, the enormity of which the younger hearers probably do not adequately realise. With regard, however, to the third provision proposed in the amending mea ure, it is not so easy to form a decided opin'on. On a previous occasion in dealing with this subject we pointed out the reasons why a definite time limit must ba imposed in informations relating to cases of criminal assault on girls under sixteen. A charge of this natnre is «ne of the easiest to bring and, excopt under favourable circumstances, one of tho most difficult to completely disprove. It is in the interests of both parties that such cases should ba brought on as early as possible, when there is the best ch'ince of obtaining evidence either for or against the accused person. The object of the time limit is to protect innocent people agninst conspiracy and blackmail, and also against the more serious danger of being charged with this offence by young girls who may be suffering from hysteria or hallucination. It is on account of the time during which tbe latter danger is to bo feared that this time limit exists only in the case of informations for criminal assault; on girls between 12 and 16 years of age. The Justice Department in the past have steadfly refused to grant any extension of the time limit in these casei, and it is, therefore, somewhat surprising (o find them proposing to exteud the limit at one bound to six months. Of course, suoh an extension of time may work out all right, as juries are n>w extremely cautious in convicting in these cases unless the evidence iB indisputably clear. The clause is bound to come in for a gfod deal o£ discussion in the Houre, and the subject will be well threshed out. Some interesting arguments may be brought to light.