Is this true?

December 15th, 2013 at 7:23 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner writes:

The sad fact is, your chances of going to jail are far higher if you swipe a packet of cigarettes from a service station than you are if you con an elderly couple into investing in a pyramid scheme.

Here’s the challenge. Has anyone ever gone to prison for stealing something worth around $20, if that is their only crime?

I doubt it. I think Colin would be surprised how many times you would have to shoplift before you end up with a custodial sentence.

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25 Responses to “Is this true?”

  1. peterwn (2,938 comments) says:

    Colin could well be right. If you swipe the cigarettes in conjunction with violence or threats of violence, especially when accompanied by someone else, you could well be looking at jail time and a ‘strike’ – and 14 years if a third strike..

    But the crim huggers characterise this as merely stealing the cigs, phone, skateboard, etc and wail like mad about the unfairness of the 3 strikes law.

    In ‘announcing’ the strike, judges should make it clear that the strike is for the violence, not merely the theft.

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  2. hj (5,703 comments) says:

    A lot of money being poured into The Tannery .

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  3. flipper (3,273 comments) says:

    ….”if that is their only crime…..”

    From memory there is still a thing called “the sentencing act” which makes it “clear” that another punishment that imprisonment should be imposed only as a “last resort” (Quotes used to cover paraphrasing.).

    Methinks Espiner is making a point by exaggeration.

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  4. budgieboy (99 comments) says:

    It’s a load of rubbish!

    Espiner lowers himself to the level of Willie and JT who often rant on about the injustice handed out to the ‘poor and vulnerable’ …anyone who has been anywhere near the court process knows they give last chance after last chance after last chance before they’ll lock someone up. (Oh and then they’ll probably give another couple of “this really is your last chance” chances before they’ll actually send someone to jail)

    Anyone locked up for a $20 theft would have a horrendous record.

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  5. Left Right and Centre (2,397 comments) says:

    My theory about some of these political and social journalists:

    Their heads are spinning with so much bullshit input from the news cycle and everything going on around them that they don’t have the time to fuck around with the niceties of practical fine detail.

    Close enough is good enough. As long as you get the general idea – does it make any difference ?

    I’d say in this case the general idea being that some white collar pricks who rip people off, to the tune of all their worth, get soft sentences compared to other crimes if based on a dollar value cost of the crime.

    Is that any good ?

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  6. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    I await with breathless anticipation for when Espiner applies the same quality of ethical scrutiny to Len Brown.

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  7. Alan (915 comments) says:

    Obviously poor young people go to jail more than other people, for the simple reason that they commit most of the crimes. I’d imagine it becomes fairly routine for the people involved in the system, the police and the lawyers. We have nearly 9,000 people in jail. 51% of them Maori.

    The numbers are here, gives breakdown of who’s in jail and what they did.

    http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/yearbook/society/crime/corrections.aspx

    The point he’s making is that, people with expensive lawyers and addresses in the inner east go to jail far less in relation to the harm they cause. Having a car stolen in a pain in the ass, but you can get over it. Losing your life savings at an elderly age (yes, I know the investment decisions made by those who lost in the finance company collapse were woeful and greedy) has a much higher impact.

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  8. Chris2 (706 comments) says:

    I remember when journalists simply reported the news.

    They did not create their own, and certainly only the Editor had a published opinion, and of course the television media did even have that.

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  9. iMP (2,154 comments) says:

    Or the chances of…

    “…watching blue movies on the taxpayer credit card and then becoming leader of the Labour party.”

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  10. jims_whare (389 comments) says:

    When I was a cop a shoplifter I arrested (in his 50′s )got sent to jail for 1 month for stealing a hammer from Mitre 10 worth $50. (Which was recovered)

    Of mild significance to the sentence was the fact that he had 95 previous convictions for shop lifting!

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  11. Longknives (4,048 comments) says:

    The resident Kiwiblog Crim huggers must be having a Sunday lie-in. I expect the usual suspects to arrive any minute and tell us that “Imprisonment doesn’t work” etc etc and that criminals are “underprivelaged and misunderstood”.

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  12. Longknives (4,048 comments) says:

    “Of mild significance to the sentence was the fact that he had 95 previous convictions for shop lifting!”

    Clearly a victim of Police Harassment!

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  13. tvb (3,945 comments) says:

    A little Maori boy taking some sweets after making a threat could be facing a robbery charge or worse and jail could well happen. A white man fraudulently stealing millions would face a less serious charge and using his clean record may even get home detention.

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  14. wreck1080 (3,527 comments) says:

    Lets say he ‘robbed’ the dairy at night while noone was there, and got away with $2000 of goods.

    He would more likely go to jail in that event.

    I totally agree with the point that finance company directors seem able to get away with it.

    But, there are good reasons, financial crime is vastly more complex to investigate.

    And, often investors are at fault too, chasing unrealistic returns in finance companies lending to people a bank wouldn’t touch.

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  15. tvb (3,945 comments) says:

    Dairy robberies frequently involve items of trivial value. I recall on the day a white fraudster took millions faced a charge with a maximin of 7 years imprisonment. Maori took some pineapple lumps from a dairy and was facing a robbery charge carrying a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and it was a strike 1 offence. If another mate was present it would be 14 years. Anyone fraudulently stealing more than say $500,000 should face an offence of aggravated fraud with a maximum of 14 years jail.

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  16. duggledog (1,116 comments) says:

    What a turd Espiner is, and what’s the bet he lives in a leafy suburb and was brought up in one.

    I went to Hendo yesterday afternoon. The place was crawling with malevolent little shits cruising the car parks just looking for something to steal. It’s precisely the reason they know the law can’t touch them that they do engage in petty theft, all the time. No consequences

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  17. Judith (5,660 comments) says:

    Simple answer yes they have – but it involved the use of a gun to request the packets of cigs.

    It entirely depends on the circumstances – whether there is a threat to life or violence.

    HOWEVER – DPF is mostly right, it is highly unlikely that even with 95 shoplifting offences a person would to to prison unless the goods were consistently high value items.

    But I do think the reporter has a point – the loan shark company that is currently under investigation can hardly be considered socially responsible – or the type of business that should be promoted in an civilised country.

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  18. Anthony (737 comments) says:

    A friend who had worked in Burma in about 10 years ago said there was not a proper court system there – just summary justice by the military and anyone stealing could be executed. He said how they did an experiment and left a bag of money on a table and went shopping for two hours and then came back and it was still there.

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  19. Yoza (1,352 comments) says:

    The “…your chances of going to jail are far higher if you swipe a packet of cigarettes from a service station…, was just a throw away line intending to highlight the gross inequity of our ‘justice’ system. This article is about white collar criminals who get away with offending on a massive scale, through robbing people or killing their employees and tenants through acts of calculated negligence.

    Laws out of balance

    The Serious Fraud Office had a relatively rare victory last month when former Wellington investment manager David Ross was sent down for nearly 11 years for running a Ponzi scheme – although it has to be said that Ross pleaded guilty.

    Investors in Hanover Finance never saw any justice from the SFO, which dropped charges against former directors Mark Hotchin and Eric Watson. Far from appearing apologetic at losing other people’s money, Hotchin and Watson were indignant, saying they should never have been charged in the first place.

    The Lombard Four, including two former ministers of justice, Doug Graham and Bill Jeffries, were convicted but escaped jail time for their part in the collapse of Lombard Finance even though the Court of Appeal later said imprisonment should have been the starting point for their sentence. Graham even got to keep his knighthood.

    … There is gaping hole in legislation regarding other areas of corporate malpractice, as last week’s decision to drop all charges against former Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall clearly shows.

    Whittall had faced 12 charges under the Health and Safety Act relating to the deaths of 29 miners caught in the explosion at Pike River Mine. The report of the Royal Commission into the tragedy clearly sheeted blame for the disaster home to Pike River Coal and its woeful health and safety systems. …

    Just last month the courts threw out another such prosecution, against CNE Security, over the death of an Auckland security guard who was attacked and killed on his first night on the job. The court ruled CNE could not be held accountable for his death.

    Meanwhile, the families of the 115 people killed in Christchurch’s CTV building collapse in the Christchurch earthquake are still waiting to see whether any charges will be brought against those who official inquiries have named as being at least partially responsible.

    The best way the Government could do this would be to pick up the Private Members Bill of Labour MP Andrew Little, which seeks to add the offence of corporate manslaughter to the Crimes Act.

    Unlike in other similar jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, only a person can be charged with homicide – not responsible companies, their directors, or their senior managers. Little wants to add the charge of “culpable homicide by a body corporate”.

    Such a grave penalty might well cause directors and senior managers in high-risk industries – particularly forestry, where nine workers have died this year alone – to pause for thought. It might also help persuade the families of those who have died for their job that the law takes their deaths seriously.

    There is a class war happening in this country and it is being waged with increasing ferocity by the corporate set, the very rich and their business class functionaries against the general population.

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  20. Left Right and Centre (2,397 comments) says:

    The place was crawling with malevolent little shits cruising the car parks just looking for something to steal.

    We also would’ve accepted –

    Vile violent malevolent malcontents hellbent with intent on a car’s contents. ;)

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  21. Yoza (1,352 comments) says:

    I think Colin would be surprised how many times you would have to shoplift before you end up with a custodial sentence.

    How many people need to be killed through acts of calculated negligence, where the employer or CEO inflates profit margins by skimping on safety measures, before those CEOs or employers face the prospect of serving time?

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  22. F E Smith (3,275 comments) says:

    The point he’s making is that, people with expensive lawyers and addresses in the inner east go to jail far less in relation to the harm they cause

    Alan, the ‘expensive lawyers’ have nothing to do with it.  There isn’t a skills gap between your so-called ‘expensive lawyers’ and those who accept clients aided by grants of legal aid.   In fact, often they are the same lawyer (after all, I know of QCs and other very senior criminal lawyers who accept legally aided clients).  

    What is different is that it is much more difficult to prove large frauds than it is to prove a small theft.

    it is highly unlikely that even with 95 shoplifting offences a person would to to prison unless the goods were consistently high value items.

    Come on, Judith, you know that isn’t correct.  If a person has 95 convictions for theft, even if all of them are charges of theft under $500, that person will most likely be going to prison if they commit another theft.

    FWIW, the smallest sole theft charge (so just one by itself, not a number at once) that I can remember seeing punished by a sentence of imprisonment was $4.  That person had 30 or 40 previous charges of theft, all relatively minor, but they had been regular and recent, hence the sentence of (from memory) 4 weeks imprisonment.

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  23. Left Right and Centre (2,397 comments) says:

    Come on, Judith, you know that isn’t correct.

    I would like to heartily endorse you to stalk every Judith comment for correction and clean-up.

    (Like getting the colours of a Rubik’s Cube back to the same on all sides.)

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  24. Tookinator (195 comments) says:

    A guy came into my motel and stole a packet of tobacco from Reception.

    He had other charges against him, but the judge gave him an extra 2 months in prison for stealing the tobacco.
    I attended the sentencing to see what happened.

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  25. RAS (55 comments) says:

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the so-called “victims” of pyramid schemes, because the fact is, they’re greedy bastards who thought they’d be the ones ripping off some other guy.

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