I have been long concerned with New Zealand’s tendency to go lightly on violent crime and the loss of confidence it is generating in the justice system. I first became aware of justice as an issue when the mother of the owner of a high school uniform shop for boys that I got my high school uniform from was bashed in 1998 whilst minding her sons shop. It became the rallying cause for a petition that garnered 250,000 signatures and forced a public referendum at the 1999 General Election asking New Zealanders whether or not they wanted tougher sentencing. An overwhelming 92% of voters said yes.
In the both the Labour and the National Government’s that have followed I have seen nit picking around the edges, but no clear cut attempt at getting courts to impose minimum sentences. I understand why people do not like minimum sentences as there is a concern that it might become the default sentence for offenders. However I view it as filling in pot holes and ensuring that for certain types of offences there is a guaranteed minimum starting point.
As a result I have a perdition before Parliament that expires in March 2020 calling on Parliament to amend legislation to require harder minimum sentences for violent offenders.
The catalyst came recently when a man convicted of rape was granted name suppression. He was no relation to the victims, but the judge was concerned about loss of reputation. Perhaps the defendant should have thought about that before he upended the poor girls lives. An earlier case along similar lines in the United States a few years ago involved an up and coming swimmer named Brock Turner who made light of sexually abusing a highly intoxicated young lady. Mr Turner however whilst showing no remorse for his case drew international attention and shone a light on how American sports handle cases of sexual abuse.
But there have been many instances contributing to my decision to take a stand. One was seeing an article about a drunk driver on his 12th conviction with multiple deaths to his name. How a police officer with the god awful task of telling some poor family one of their family one of their number has been killed by a multiple time offender is supposed to do that is beyond me.
I have read however of a man who has been convicted 26 times and gone to jail 12 times and still continues to offend. At that point, one has to ask if the offender has some sort of compulsive disorder, which I hope has been considered as a possible cause for such sustained and repetitive offending. Unfortunately the risk of reoffending is so high that some sort of facility is probably the only place where both he and the public will be safe.
It is not that I believe the jail population needs to grow. I do not. Jail is for those who pose a pose a too big a threat to the community to be on the streets – there are other sentences that we could consider for those who have ill gotten gains where the offending did not threaten the physical well being of the victims. But the examples above I think we can agree should get jail.
Perhaps then the bigger problem is how do we get those who so brazenly threaten other peoples lives to be appropriately sentenced? This is actually not the first petition I have tried on this matter – an earlier one was rejected on the grounds that Parliament may not interfere with the performance of the judiciary, which I accidentally inferred when writing the text for it.
This petition is up until 31 March 2020, at which point I will ask for it to be presented to Parliament. In the interim it can be found at the link at the top of this article.