BSA upholds complaints against Radio NZ over three strikes coverage

November 25th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Garrett complained to Radio New Zealand and then the Broadcasting Standards Authority about a Nine to Noon item on 29 May 2013 regarding the three strikes law. The BSA has ruled that the item was both unbalanced and inaccurate. Their ruling is here.

David has provided Kiwiblog with a guest post about the ruling:

“Three Strikes”, Radio New Zealand and the Broadcasting Standards Authority

 On 29 May Radio New Zealand’s “Nine to Noon” featured what was supposedly a panel discussion about how the “three strikes” (3S) law  was working, almost three years after its passing.  The only problem – or at least the  most obvious one – was that the panel consisted only of Professor John  Pratt,  who had voiced his strident views against the law from well before it was passed, and the lawyer for one Elijah Whaanga,  a man with 20 odd convictions as an adult, two of them  “strikes” for aggravated robbery.

 And of course there was the supposedly neutral  presenter, one Lyn Freeman, filling in for Kathryn Ryan, who in all fairness would probably  have done a much better job. As the recently released Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) determination on my complaint about the programme makes clear, while nominally presenting the programme – and supposedly acting as devil’s advocate :

“…the presenter appeared to largely adopt the position of the interviewees without any real challenge….[her questions] were insufficient to provide balance on the topic under discussion, especially considering the broadcast involved two people strongly opposed to  the law” (at para. [25])

The programme began with a major  inaccuracy: that persons on their third strike “had no possibility of parole”, when in  fact  the “no parole at strike three” provision  will  not apply if the Judge finds it to be “manifestly unjust” in the circumstances of a particular case. The insertion of this proviso occurred after Judith Collins took over negotiation of the contents of the 3S  law from then Justice Minister Simon Power, and the Nats stopped playing games.

It is an important qualification – and gives the lie to the oft repeated claim that the law removes judicial discretion.  ACT readily agreed to this provisio being included. Radio New Zealand simply ignored its existence in Freeman’s introduction. Things got much worse from that point on.

Throughout the discussion, Elijah Whaanga, the second strike aggravated robber whose lawyer was a panelist, was referred to constantly  as “Elijah” and “a playground bully ”, presumably because his second strike aggravated robbery was of a skateboard and a hat. What wasn’t  mentioned was that the robbery occurred  in the street not a playground; that the victim was “only” robbed of a skateboard and a hat because he had no money; and that in Whaanga’s first strike – also an aggravated robbery in the street – the victim had all his money taken, and his head  kicked in.

As the BSA puts it in its decision:

“The offender on his second strike…was referred to throughout the discussion and  used as an example of the type of people  targeted by the law , without balancing comment to challenge this…Given the participants strongly held views that the law operated in a way that was unjust and unfair, and out of proportion to the crime committed, there was a clear requirement of the broadcaster to ensure the discussion was balanced” [paras. 19 -20]

The BSA concluded that the programme was one to which the “balance” standard applied,  that  RNZ “…did not include sufficient balance on the issue”, and therefore upheld the  first limb of  my complaint.

Inaccuracies

My second complaint was about the many inaccuracies the programme contained, none of them corrected or challenged by the presenter.  I identified a lengthy list of statements – mostly by Professor Pratt  – (see para. [37] of the determination)  which were inaccurate or misleading.

The BSA found that the programme was misleading in two crucial respects: firstly by its  many completely inaccurate comparisions with California’s “three strikes” law; the second  was the way “playground bully” Elijah Whaanga was “portrayed and used as an example of the type of criminals (sic.)  targeted by the law “ (See para. [43] of the BSA decision).

The first  point  is of course indeed  crucial. From the outset, opponents of 3S have attempted to use the indisputable   excesses of the law in California as it was originally enacted   as a reason not to enact  a law with the same name here.

In 2007, Garth McVicar and I went to California specifically to find out whether the “life for stealing a chocolate bar” stories were true (we never verified  that one, although there were others which were clearly unacceptable and unjust) and if so, to work out how to draft our  3S law so  injustices like them  couldn’t happen here.

California recently modified its law to make it much more like ours: no more “technical felonies”, and much more prosecutorial and  judicial discretion. Rather than make those points, Freeman talked about California “backing away” from 3S, and rhetorically asked “What does that tell you? ” Professor Pratt obliging leapt on his soapbox and gave his version of what the changes in California meant, untroubled by any dissenting voice.

The BSA was perhaps  harshest on this point, saying:

“…comparing the legislation in this manner, without any countering views, and in particular the presenter’s unequivocal statement that California had started to ‘back away’  from the legislation, would have misled listeners as to the nature of New Zealand’s ‘three strikes’ law  and any comparison with California.” (see para. [42] )

The BSA concluded its decision on the balance and accuracy complaints thus:

“The programme omitted any alternative voice to counteract the one sided statements  made by the panelists, and the presenter failed to adequately challenge those statements. Compounding this, the panelists also made statements which created a misleading impression in the absence of any balancing comment.” (See para. [49] )

As I did on the morning  I heard this travesty of journalism unfolding, I have offered to  appear as “balance” for any future programme on 3S. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be getting a call, but at least after receiving  a spanking from the BSA like this one, they might be a bit more careful next time.

Well done to David for getting a successful ruling, and hopefully Radio NZ will be more balanced in future on this topic.

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Guest Post: David Garrett on full and final settlement

June 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by former ACT MP David Garrett:

Why Maori grievance settlements are not “full and final” –  and how  they could be.

From  the time of  its election in 2008 this government has done one thing consistently – pay out large sums of taxpayers’ money to supposedly achieve “full and final” settlements of a plethora of Maori grievances. Almost every week the galleries of Parliament are filled by one group of Maori or another who proceed to sing beautifully as the Bill settling “their” grievance, supposedly once and for all,   is passed into law. But that won’t in fact  be the end of it, and all the players know it.

First some history.  In the 1940’s the Labour government of the day made real and genuine efforts to settle Maori grievances which had been festering for years – and they had been, despite the claims of some on the right that “grievance” is very recent  phenomenon.  To take just one example, it is quite true that since their land was confiscated after the Land Wars of the 1860’s, Tainui had been bitterly protesting what they claimed was unjust and unlawful  confiscations of land. And they were right.

Back in 1926, the government of the day set up the Sim Commission – chaired by a [then]  Supreme Court Judge –   to investigate   claims of unjust land confiscations in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki. Its report was released in 1927, and recommended  compensation of about $500,000 per annum in today’s money be made. For twenty years, nothing happened, and the grievances festered through another generation.

Then came the Waikato-Maniapoto Maori Claims Settlement Act of 1946, which gave force to an agreement reached personally between Prime Minister Peter Fraser and Princess Te Puea. In his biography “Te Puea”, Michael King describes the settlement negotiations, and in particular the final session, at which Fraser agreed to pay 5000 pounds (a million dollars today) per year for ever, and an additional 1000 pounds per year for 45 years, commencing in 1947. Similar Acts were passed around the same time “settling” the claims by Taranaki iwi and Ngai Tahu. All of those settling Acts were overturned less than 50 years later.

It is now claimed that: 1) the settlements were negotiated with the wrong people; and/or 2) they were for trifling sums; and/or  3) the sums were eroded by inflation. As to the first, it didn’t get any higher than the PM on one side, and the most respected Maori leader of her day on the other. As to the “trifling sums” claim, that is clearly nonsense.  It is certainly true that 6000 pounds in 1946 was not worth anything like the same amount thirty or forty  years later because of inflation. But anyone who retired on a fixed income before inflation became a phenomenon  had that problem. It simply wasn’t considered at the time.

Fast forward into the 90’s, and the Tainui  and other iwi convinced the government of the day  that the “settlements” of 50 years earlier weren’t settlements at all;  the whole issue was revisited, and millions of taxpayer dollars were paid. Again, the new settlements were given force in legislation – the laws passed in the 1940’s simply being repealed because they were no longer convenient.

But we did not learn the lessons of the 1940’s, and we still haven’t. Those prior settlements could simply be written out of existence because the laws which gave force to them were not entrenched; they could be repealed by any government able to muster a simple majority, as any government can.

Now, twenty years on from the settlements of the 90’s, were are still “settling” grievances, and still passing laws which can be repealed when the next generation decides to have a crack.  The Attorney General claimed on National Radio recently that the current settlements will not  be revisted,  yet again, in 40 years time. In making that claim, he is at best being disingenuous.

 Firstly neither he nor anyone else knows what will happen in 40 years – the more honest Maori leaders are now admitting that no generation can bind the next. Secondly, Finlayson is well aware that the legislation he  sponsors now  is no more legally durable than that passed 50 years ago – these most recent laws can also be repealed by any future  government with a simply majority.

 There is at least a possible solution – entrenching  the laws being passed with gay abandon so  they cannot be repealed without a “supermajority” of – say – 75% of MP’s in favour. Or if we really want to be serious,  unless there is a popular referendum with a similar majority.   While legal academic opinion is divided on just how effective such entrenchment attempts  would be, it would at least be a signal that this government was serious; that the settlements of the last 20 years were intended to be full and final, that this was accepted by the grievants, and that any attempt to reopen the can of worms would simply be a venal attempt to get more money.

 Why hasn’t this government entrenched its “settling” Bills? There are various answers, none of them complimentary.  Finlayson and his ilk simply cannot argue, when we go down this path again,   that everything was done at the time to finally close the books. Until that is done – as well as our constitutional arrangements allows – none  of the settlements now being made can be considered “full and final”.  And the Attorney General knows it.

I agree with David Garrett that you can not guarantee what people may try to do in 50 years.  You can’t pass a law banning people from advocating something. However there are a number of reasons why I think the current settlements will be durable, which I’ll do a separate post on at some stage.

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Guest Post: David Garrett on crime levels

May 21st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

Still plenty of crime about

This weeks HoS featured a  story on falling crime. The gist of it was that crime was at its lowest since 1982;  we are all victims of manufactured anxiety about crime , and in fact we have never had it so good. The story featured a neat little graph which showed that  “recorded offences” were about the same – actually a little lower – than  they were in 1982. Sadly neither the story nor the graph tells the whole story.

For example, if the graph covered the period back to 1972, it would show a dramatic explosion in crime between then and 1982, when the reassuring line on the graph in the story  begins. If the graph went still further back, it would show violent crime – including  homicide – pretty much as a flat line from the beginning of last century until about 1972, when violent crime began to grow exponentially.

The story uses the “crimes per 10,000 of population” measure, which allows us to compare New York with New Plymouth – the rates are comparable and meaningful   whatever the populations compared. For most of the 20th century, our homicide rate was about 0.5 per 100,000 per year. It is now about three times that – substantially less than 20 years ago it is true, but still three times higher than it was fifty or sixty years ago.

The graph in Sunday’s story  showed total offences, and does indeed show an encouraging fall since 2010 – but more about that in a moment. If the graph had shown violent  crimes only, the picture would not have been anything like as rosy; violent crime has declined much less since its peak in the early 90’s than “recorded crime” generally,  a notoriously unreliable stat, since to be “recorded”, someone has to bother reporting it.

The most interesting thing about the story for me was the sharp drop in crime since 2009 – about the time the National led government moved, albeit rather timidly, away from the “criminals are victims too” policies we had been following for the past 40 years or more. 2009-10 saw  small changes in bail laws, more recalls for breaches of parole, and of course “three strikes”, the effects of which are only now really beginning to be felt.

The liberal academics – something of a tautology since with very few exceptions we have no other kind – will of course ascribe the sharp drop in crime from 2009 to something other  than the factors I have cited. Anything will do for them, so long as it’s not  more punative measures. The current theory is  that removing lead in petrol twenty years ago has caused crime to drop now.

To those who say that to aim for the kind of safe society we once had is a reactionary pipedream, I say this: read up on the precipitate drop in crime in New York since a much more dramatic policy change  in the early 90’s than we have seen began. Back then, there were about 4000 homicides in New York City every year, and the city was widely regarded as “ungovernable”.

Mayor Guiliani refused to accept that, and the New York Police Department were directed to “take back the city”, block by block.  Now, homicides in NYC number in the hundreds annually – about the same level as in the 1960’s – rather than the thousands.  The population hasn’t changed.

We can do the same. Smarter and more comprehensive policing – “broken windows” New Zealand style if you like – has caused crime to plummet in South Auckland,  long our most crime ridden district. I look forward to the day when some fresh faced reporter can show a graph extending back to 1972, or even 1952, and say we now have the same rate of violent crime as we did then. It can be done. We just need the will to continue down the path we tentatively embarked on three years ago.

The point David makes about violent crime being a better indicator than overall crime is one I have often made also.

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Guest Post: David Garrett on Sterilisation

October 15th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

Sterilize child abusers – compulsorily if necessary

It is a cliché that while one needs a licence to own a dog, no such permission from the state is required to have children. The same illogical disparity applies when owners or parents abuse their charges: an abuser  can be banned from owing an animal for a period of years or for ever, but the state has no power to prevent abusive “parents” continuing to bring innocent children into the world.

The weekend papers contain two examples of this ridiculous dichotomy. A Sunday paper reports that one of the abusers of three year old Nia Glassie – the little girl who died after being put in clothes drier and   then choked by her grandfather  until her face went purple – is pregnant.  Oriwa Kemp, aged 22, apparently lives “ a transient lifestyle”, and will probably have her latest baby removed by CYF at birth.

Meanwhile down in the western Bay of Plenty, a farmer who broke some of his cows’ tails and hit them over the legs with a steel pipe causing fractures and “weeping lesions” has been sentenced to ten months home detention. Because his victims were animal and not human, he could have been disqualified from ever again owning or exercising authority over  animals. Oriwa Kemp can go on producing children until menopause, and many of the deluded clowns on the left will vehemently defend her “human right” to do so.

One of the earlier controversies during my brief political career arose from my  supporting a guest poster on this blog who suggested that incentives be offered to abusive parents to have themselves sterilized. That night, my “outrageous” comments led the TV news, with  my face superimposed over massed ranks of marching Nazi storm troopers, and shots of Auschwitz.

While I found that astounding – I was very naïve about journos in those days – I was even more surprised at the positive reaction my comments gave rise to, or more correctly, where they came from. I got numerous e-mails agreeing with me from people I had never met, but who made it clear they were not ACT supporters. One former friend – a leftie family lawyer with whom I had fallen out – wrote that all was forgiven because I had said publicly   “what someone needs to say”.

Now we have a government “white paper” – prompted by the Glassie outrage – which recommends “strategies” to combat child abuse. I have not read it, but judging by the media reports it contains nothing particularly radical or new. We don’t need white papers, or “further study” or “consultations with stakeholders” on this issue.  Someone in government needs to stand up and actually LEAD – and if it’s not someone in this lot it surely won’t be someone in the next, which looks likely to be a ghastly amalgam of Labour, the Greens,  Hone the Racist and Winston First.

We once led the world in  the introduction of what were then utterly radical social policies: pensions for the aged; votes for women; a comprehensive welfare state; free medical care for all. Most of those ideas were considered utterly outrageous at the time. Don’t take my word for it – have a look at reports of  the reaction of the medical profession to “socialized medicine” following the election of the first Labour government in 1935.

We could lead the world in social policy again. We could stop wringing our hands about child abuse, take a big breath, and say “Actually NO, everyone doesn’t  have the inalienable right to give birth to children. If you prove you are unfit to do so, we as a society will ensure you don’t”. Cue   howls of outrage from the left, including the sophomoric navel agonizing over “who decides”.

We allow ordinary people to decide the most weighty decisions – whether someone is guilty or not guilty of murder or other serious violent crimes – every day.  Those ordinary people are called “jurors”.  One  of those who sat in judgment on Oriwa Kemp wants the baby to be removed at birth and Kemp to undergo sterilization. The first will happen, the second won’t.

I cannot improve on the words of that (female)  juror as reported in the HoS:

“I think it’s disgusting, revolting, abhorrent…there are so many people in this world who would love to have children and can’t…and for [Kemp] to be able to go and get pregnant and pop them out whenever she feels like it is just mind blowing”

Right on, as we once said.  There are thousands dozens or hundreds of Oriwa Kemps.  Why do we allow this to continue?

DPF: The Nia Glassie case is arguably our worst. Nia was: “kicked, beaten, slapped, jumped on, held over a burning fire, had wrestling moves copied from a computer game practiced on her, spit on, placed into a clothes dryer spinning at top heat for up to 30 minutes, folded into a sofa and sat on, shoved into piles of rubbish, dragged through a sandpit half-naked, flung against a wall, dropped from a height onto the floor, and whirled rapidly on an outdoor rotary clothes line until thrown off”

Her family also waited 36 hours after she went into a coma before they sought medical help. Her mother went out clubbing (so enough money for that) while Nia lay dying in hospital.

My instinct is to execute, not sterilise, all those involved. But more rationally I can’t bring myself to support compulsory sterilisation (or execution)  - even for those who deserve it. I just can’t defend the precedent it creates in terms of power of the state.

I hope that the new law changes which will allow for an order that all future children be removed at birth, will discourage people like Oriwa Kemp from getting pregnant again. But considering her first born is in CYFS care, I suspect she knows this one will end up there also – but that wasn’t enough to discourage her from getting pregnant. I just hope her son or daughter when born, never find out who their birth mother was.

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Guest Post: Community care for the dangerously mentally ill is not working

September 10th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

I recently learned that the son of a former colleague had been murdered. It was shocking news, but when I found that Dean Clark was yet another victim of a mentally ill person released to “community care”, and supposedly being monitored in the community rather than  in a secure psychiatric facility, it made me both despairing and furious.

The circumstances of Dean’s death were almost identical to those of Colin Moyle, who was  bludgeoned to death with a spade, and his body set  on fire  in 2007. The killer was a mental patient also under “community care” at the time. Mr Moyle took him in and gave him a home because he had been sleeping rough.

At the time of Moyle’s death there were the usual enquiries, and assurances that “systems” would change so that such a tragedy would not happen again. Here we are five years down the track, and clearly absolutely nothing has changed.

The man charged with Dean Clark’s murder is a 38 year old mental health patient who Dean had known for years. Dean took him in because the man had been sleeping rough and on friends’ couches,and had needed somewhere to live. Dean had a spare room and needed a flatmate. Five days later Dean was dead, stabbed to death in his bed.

A recently retired mental health worker told the media  there are “gaping holes” in the mental health system that needed  to be fixed. Dean’s mother received a visit from some person from the mental health system, which she found “utterly useless”. The mother asked  her visitor the questions you would expect: when was the man last seen by the authorities? What steps were being taken to ensure he was adequately monitored?

As usual, for “legal reasons”, a mother’s anguished questions could not be answered. This is indeed a very difficult legal area. By definition, the criminally insane – as they were once called –  confined in an institution like the Mason Clinic,  are patients and not prisoners. The doctors treating them are in a doctor-patient relationship, and are not their jailers. Such patients have rights of privacy even greater than those of ordinary prisoners.

But the community has rights too. Dean Clark and Colin Moyle had the right to live their lives without unmonitored dangerous psychiatric patients roaming around their neighbourhoods listening to voices in their heads, voices  often urging them to kill someone. Each time such a tragedy happens there is the usual hand wringing, offers of sincere condolences – and ducking for cover. But nothing changes.

The “three strikes” law which I helped to put in place,  and other changes to sentencing and parole laws, came about in large part because enough people got sick enough of violent thugs being continually released from prison to make sufficient  noise for politicians to take notice. Poll driven politicians on both sides of the left-wing divide listened, and the laws gradually changed. Five years on from Colin Moyle’s horrific death  clearly nothing has changed regarding the criminally insane, and Dean Clark paid the penalty for that political torpor.

There is an added tragedy in every such case. Two months on, in a secure forensic environment where he is compulsorily medicated, Dean’s killer is probably  as “sane” as he will ever be, and  now has to live with the horror of what he has done. Living with that will be a burden he must bear for the rest of his life, regardless of what the courts eventually do with him. That alone may make him go off medication in the future –  so he can return to a more comfortable world of the voices and delusions –  unless he is properly monitored when he is again released.

It is time the same level of public pressure that eventually resulted in “three strikes” was brought to bear on the mental health system. It is simply not acceptable for learned pointy heads to nod wisely and say “this is all a very difficult balancing exercise”, or utter similar platitudes every time such a tragedy happens.  The mental health system has a long history of covering its backside, stretching back at least to whistle blower Neil Pugmire, who warned the public in the 1990’s  about the imminent release of a dangerous sex offender, and paid a heavy price for doing so. Eventually though, as a result of public pressure, the Protected Disclosures Act was passed to protect the Neil Pugmires of the future.

Whether  changes  to the way we deal with dangerous psychiatric patients happen  now is, in the first instance, up to the public. The National government changed its plans to mine Schedule 4 of the Conservation Estate because enough people objected to the plan, and the polls reflected that level of objection. People need to wake up to the danger of inadequately monitored, dangerously ill mental patients in their midst under non existent “community care”,  and make just as much noise. Otherwise you or your son’s next flatmate may be a mental patient in the incompetent  hands of those supposed to be monitoring them. And listening to the voices.

Thanks to David for the guest post.

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David Garrett on Three Strikes law

July 30th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

Court of Appeal rejects appeal and confirms “second strike” sentence.

When the “three strikes” law was making its way through parliament a great deal of misinformation was spread about  by those opposing it. Among the more outrageous claims was that the law would result in the prison population tripling within two years, and  that there would be a sharp rise in attacks on police by “strike” offenders desperate to avoid arrest. Two years on, seven offenders have received their second “strike”.  Far from tripling,  the prison population is falling, and there is no evidence of an increase in attacks on police.

Another claim – that the Judges would oppose the law, and find ways to avoid imposing it – has now also proven to be nonsense. The Court of Appeal has just released its decision on an appeal by Brock Robert Norton, who appealed against his conviction and sentence for a “second “strike”. The appeal was rejected, and Norton’s three year sentence for aggravated robbery was confirmed.

Norton – just like the other six second strikers – is just the kind of thug the “three strikes” law was intended to target. While still on parole from his “first strike” sentence, Norton and an accomplice invaded the victim’s home and cornered him in his bedroom, robbing him of a cellphone. The victim was injured in the fracas.  Norton first “strike” offence was very similar to his second – robbery and demanding with menaces.

These two are clearly not his only convictions. In rejecting his appeal, a three Judge bench of the Court of Appeal noted that  with his record, and the seriousness of the offending, a further prison term was inevitable despite his lawyer’s plea for a sentence of supervision. So much for “three strikes” targeting poor lads who had stolen chocolate bars from dairies – another piece of misinformation promulgated  at the time by the likes of Kim Workman.

For lawyers – and their violent criminal clients – this decision is very significant. It puts the lie to the claim that “the Judges all hate it”; we now know that at least one District Court Judge is happy to impose a three year sentence on second strike, knowing the offender will serve the whole sentence, and at least three Court of Appeal Judges are quite comfortable with such a sentence.

The real test will of course come at third strike stage – perhaps Mr Norton will be the first to test whether the Court of Appeal is happy with a 14 year sentence for aggravated robbery. That is what awaits Norton if he fails to take the rehabilitative opportunities offered to him in jail – which the Judges strongly recommended he do – and instead re-offends violently on release in three years time.

It will be interesting to hear the bleating of Kim Workman and his ilk when the inevitable happens, and someone goes away for a record holiday courtesy of Her Majesty and “three strikes”. If the first third striker isn’t Mr Norton, it will be a thug just like him.

I regard it as a good thing that Norton will have to serve his three year sentence without parole – especially as he did his second strike on parole. Hopefully the fact that if he offends again, he will get 14 years without parole will act as an disincentive. If it doesn’t, then he’ll not be doing a fourth strike for at least 14 years!

Always happy to run guest posts, including from Mr Workman.

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Guest Post: Incarceration beyond sentence for habitual sex offenders – deeply problematic but necessary

April 12th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

The case of Stuart Murray Wilson – the so called “beast of Bleheim” – has prompted the National led government to finally grasp  one of the most difficult of legal nettles. Our entire judicial system is based on “do the crime, do the time”, and no imprisonment for what one  might do in the future. But what do we do with individuals like Wilson or Lloyd MacIntosh – habitual sex offenders who everyone, including experts retained on their behalf,  agrees will – not might – inevitably reoffend on release?

The problem is not new, and unless or until medical science advances significantly, habitual sex offenders who constitute a serious risk – regardless of advanced age – will always be with us.

Stanley McKissock Reid committed sex offences including  rape in the 1920’s, and served a lengthy term of imprisonment. Despite his file being marked “Never to be released”, he was, and Reid then  raped and killed Lila Hammond in 1944. But for an accident of history – a temporary moratorium on capital punishment – Reid would have been hanged and forgotten.

During his time in jail, there were several attempts to “rehabilitate” Reid, including work placements at Burnham Army Camp near Christchurch. Whenever he was around women, Reid could not stop himself from sexually assaulting them, so he stayed in jail. By the 1980’s Reid was in his 80’s, and there was considerable agitation from well meaning do-gooders to let “poor old Stan” live the remainder of his life in the community.

Reid was released from jail in the mid 1980’s aged 83. He was sent to live with a community of nuns, where, about six weeks after his release, he tried to rape one of them. Fortunately the nun was able to overpower him. Showing considerably more insight than the do-gooders,  Reid told her that he  had “always been a bad bastard”.

The oldest prisoner in jail in New Zealand is an 85 year old paedophile held   in maximum security at Auckland prison. He is still considered to be a serious risk to children, and is unlikely to ever be released. The authorities can hold him indefinitely because he is serving a life sentence.

Lloyd McIntosh, a habitual paedophile who is described as “New Zealand’s most dangerous sex offender”,  is much more problematic. McIntosh was sentenced to ten years in 1993 for sexually assaulting a nine month old baby. He served the full sentence, and shortly after his release in 2003, sexually assaulted and raped a two year old boy.  Although he had been offending since he was a child, the authorities then finally woke up to the reality that in McIntosh, they had an offender who was almost without parallel.

In 2005, McIntosh became the first person to be subject to a ten year supervision order. Initially, by agreement, he lived in a house within the grounds of Rolleston prison, but the following year he was allowed to leave the prison grounds  subject to electronic monitoring and close supervision. Given the consensus among “the experts”  that he will never  be less than a serious risk, it is somewhat remarkable that he has not reoffended since 2006 – or at least he has not been caught. From 2015, McIntosh will be free of all constraints, and given his history, it can then only be a matter of time before he reoffends.

So what can and should we do with people like Wilson and McIntosh, or the ten or a dozen similar offenders identified by the authorities? As in most matters penal, the United States grasped this particularly difficult nettle ten or twenty years ago, with laws requiring notification of communities into which habitual sex offenders are released, and for the worst of the worst, pre-emptive incarceration.

Coalinga state prison is a unique institution designed for those designated “Sexually Violent Predators –  offenders who the state has determined are simply too dangerous to  be released after completing their prison sentences. They constitute perhaps 2% of incarcerated sex offenders. Given the very small number of offenders such as McIntosh and Wilson identified here in New Zealand, the percentage is likely to be similar in this country.

Inmates at Coalinga have considerably more freedom that at a normal prison. They are allowed to move around the prison concourse freely. There is a “mall” with shops, such as a barbershop, a grill, and a canteen. Those prisoners who wish to can participate in various psychological therapy programmes. Significantly, the majority of inmates refuse to undertake any treatment. They do not think there is anything wrong with them. Those inmates have effectively selected themselves as members of the category of prisoners who will never be released.

To be fair, neither will most of the rest, treatment or no treatment.  The Americans at least have accepted that there is a small but highly dangerous category of sex offender who will always be too much of a danger to society, no matter what “treatment” they undergo. It seems that the National led government – probably at the instigation of Justice Minister Collins – has at last woken up to the same realization.

There are of course numerous good philosophical and moral reasons not  to lock people up for what they might or -  even  definitely will  – do in the future. No doubt we will hear many of those arguments in comments on this post.  But for me, the issue is relatively straightforward. Once an offender  has been conclusively identified as a person who will never be safe around the vulnerable – particularly children -  their “rights” very much take second place to the rights of children to play,  or even  to sleep,  without a Lloyd McIntosh waiting for his chance to grab them and  commit unspeakable crimes.

Some very interesting history there from NZ’s past, and also on what happens in the US.

Andrew Geddis at Pundit has posted on the issue also, detailing some of the issues involved.

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Guest Post on Three Strikes law

January 22nd, 2011 at 2:44 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by former MP David Garrett on the Three Strikes law:

This week, figures on convictions since the “three strikes” legislation came into force were released. 132 offenders were convicted of 209 “strike” offences. 151 of the convictions were for “pure violence” offences –including aggravated robbery (59), robbery(29), wounding with intent (33) and injuring with intent (20). There were also 58 convictions for indecent assault.

As some commentators at the time have noted – with some justification – indecent assault can cover a fairly broad continuum from the “drunken grope” to near rape. In my view the relative seriousness of various forms of indecent assault is a red herring – or at least a separate debate. None of the other “strike” convictions thus far can be described as “minor offences”, although others will no doubt argue otherwise.

These early results are entirely to be expected. At the time the Bill was being debated, there was all manner of ill informed – and downright dishonest – claims that “three strikes” would see people locked up for minor offences including theft. It seemed not to matter how often it was explained that the Bill was carefully drafted to target only repeat violent offenders – the misinformation campaign went on.

All of the convictions since June 2010 were first strikes, meaning the offenders who were actually sent to prison are still eligible for parole as before. The only thing that changed was those offenders now have a first warning on their file – which will have real consequences when they appear again for a violent offence – and most of them will.

A registrar of my acquaintance runs a District Court in a provinical area. She has paid particular attention to the “strike” offenders appearing for sentence in that court. She tells me that almost without exception, they are familiar faces, having appeared before – some on many occasions – often for violent offending.

She also tells me that most of those sentenced appear to pay little attention to the warning, although if their lawyers are doing their jobs, the offenders will have been told that as a result of it, a further conviction for a strike offence will have a significantly different outcome. Next time, any custodial sentence will have to be served without parole, and even in our ridiculously liberal justice system, a second conviction for a strike offence will almost certainly result in a prison sentence.

The debate about whether three strikes “works” will continue regardless of the results. I have no doubt that even if in three years time violent crime has dropped significantly, the liberal left will refuse to believe that a more punitive approach has anything to do with it. Sadly the left are like that.

The late Dr Dennis Dutton told me a few years ago of his great amusement at the disquiet in American liberal academia when homicides in New York City plummeted in the early 1990′s. Those in the ivory towers embarked upon a feverish search for “the real reason” homicide had declined from about 2500 in 1990 to about 450 per year at the end of the decade. They simply could not accept that something as “simplisitic” as more police on the street with a different attitude, and sentence enhancement measures similar to a “three strikes” approach could have been the reason.

New Yorker’s didn’t care what the reason was, they were just happy to be able to take their kids to Times Square on a Sunday afternoon without being hassled by drug dealers or robbed. Most New Zealanders will be similarly happy that 132 violent offenders now have their first strike, and that within a few years a good proportion of them will be locked up for a long time.

Like David, I’m looking forward to the legislation leading to some repeat violent offenders getting locked up for a long time, so they can’t continue to offend.

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What a difference

September 23rd, 2010 at 7:13 pm by David Farrar

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Garrett to resign tomorrow

September 22nd, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Discredited MP David Garrett will reportedly resign his seat in Parliament tomorrow, after last week quitting the Act Party over revelations he acquired a passport in 1984 using a dead child’s identity.

Mr Garrett – a list MP – in recent days has indicated that he won’t stay on as an independent MP but is yet to formally announce his decision.

However Radio New Zealand, which Mr Garrett used to announce his resignation from ACT, is reporting that he will now step down altogether.

I’ve been saying all along that I was sure David would resign from Parliament, once he quit ACT.

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Garrett set to leave Parliament

September 19th, 2010 at 8:18 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Disgraced MP David Garrett is ready to quit Parliament for the good of the Act Party.

Garrett said last night it was “very much more likely” he would stand down from Parliament before the next election. “I am in a very dark place right now,” he said.

To be fair to Garrett, he has done the right thing in quitting ACT – and so quickly. Unlike others who went to court to fight for their right to remain, he has put the interests of his party ahead of himself. I also give kudos for his resignation statement which said:

I can do nothing to change the past. For any number of reasons, I wish I had not done such a stupid and dreadfully hurtful thing in 1984. When my wrongdoing was revealed, the worst aspect of it all for me was reading the letters written by the mother and sister of the dead boy whose identity I used to obtain the passport.

As a result of my own actions, my political career is almost certainly over, but that is not my greatest concern. The worst aspect of all of this for me is that those who have seen fit to do so have opened the wounds of the boy’s mother and sister all over again. As the person who inflicted those wounds in the first place – however unwittingly – I must take ultimate responsibility for that.

I wrote letters of apology at the time – letters I realised were woefully inadequate, but there was nothing else I could do. I wish to reiterate my profound regret for the distress and hurt my thoughtless actions inflicted on two women, one of whom is elderly. I am simply unable to imagine how it must have felt at the time they first learned of what I had done, and I am equally unable to imagine what they must feel now.

I still well recall my horror when I read the letters from the boy’s relatives, one of them in the handwriting of a clearly elderly lady. I do not think I have ever felt worse.

There is certainly no excuse for what I did, and I make none.

His statement reeks of sincerity.

I have little doubt Garrett will resign from Parliament, and not try to stay on as an Independent MP. And this was before the extra complication the HoS reports on:

Their willingness to put the party’s interests ahead of their own came as a Howick woman, who met Garrett on an internet dating site, revealed he tried to woo her with a McDonald’s dinner and a private viewing of the film Casablanca.

A McDonald’s dinner? No wonder it didn’t work out!

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Hypocritical ******

September 18th, 2010 at 1:53 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Act Party has been “thoroughly” discredited and its ministerial positions should be removed, Labour leader Phil Goff says.

Now I have been critical, both on this blog and on radio, of Rodney’s decision not to force Garrett to make his offending known before the election. It was an error of judgement, and ACT have been damaged by it.

But I’m sorry, it is just too much to have Labour get sanctimonious on this, and declare that because of this, Rodney is unfit to be a Minister.

Need I remind people of Taito Philip Field – the MP found to have committed numerous corrupt practices while a Labour Minister and MP.

Field’s offending was not 26 years before he became an MP. It was while he was an MP. Field’s offending was not incidental to him being an MP – it was corruption in the course of his MP duties. And it was corruption aided by his Ministerial colleague who rubber stamped almost every immigration application made by Field.

And what happened when allegations were made. The Labour leadership defended Field. They said he was only guilty of working too hard.

And even after the full scale of his offending was made clear by the Ingram Report, the Labour leadership still defended him. If Rodney Hide is unfit to be a Minister, then Helen Clark and Michael Cullen were equally unfit to be Ministers.

Even worse, Labour never booted Field out for his criminal offending. He only got booted out when he talked of not standing for Labour.

And the final indignity came after he was found guilty of 11 charges of bribery and corruption (and 11 of perverting or obstructing the course of justice). Labour not only refused to apologise for the huge shame Field was, but they refused to even accept he was guilty. I’m not making this up – go check the records. The only comment they would make is they “acknowledge” the verdict.

So yes Rodney made a mistake, and yes ACT is damaged. But for fucks sake the last thing we need is a lecture in ethics from the party that gave protection and defence to a corrupt MP. If Labour ever get around to actually apologising for their defence of Field, then maybe they get to be taken seriously on ethical issues.

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Way forward bleak for ACT

September 17th, 2010 at 12:18 pm by David Farrar

UPDATE 1218: David Garrett has resigned as a member of ACT. He is taking two weeks leave to decide whether or not to continue as an Independent MP.

For my 2c David can not continue as an Independent MP. He is a List MP and got there on the ACT list. He may need a few days to come to this conclusion, but it is the only viable one.

Earlier: I’ve spent a couple of days thinking about this, and I have to conclude the future is bleak for ACT. Not terminal necessarily, but their brand may be too damaged to repair.

It was a critically bad decision to keep Garrett’s offending secret. While what he did was very bad (and one can only have immense sympathy for the family of the deceased infant, who are having to cope with all of this), it could have been handled, if prior to the election it was revealed. NZers do not expect MPs who have never made mistakes.

But keeping it secret, while one rails against crime and suppression orders means that ACT is seen as hypocritical. And the nature of the offence risks them being seen as a bad taste joke.

So how do they move forward?

An absolute minimum is that David Garrett must be removed as Law & Order Spokesperson. It is impossible for him to perform that role with credibility anymore.

But I don’t think that will even be enough. So long as David remains in the ACT Caucus, this will remain an issue. Some may say it is unfair (remember Trevor Mallard remained an MP despite being convicted of assault – while an MO, of another MP, and in the lobby of the debating chamber), but this is about political survival.

Also recall that there will not be inquiries into whether Garrett should have disclosed his Tongan conviction to the courts. I am sure he will face complains to the Law Society. The Tongan doctor is alleging a different set of facts to him, and more witnesses may come out about that. ACT can’t afford to have this dominate reporting on them for weeks and months to come.

If Garrett resigns, then Hilary Calvert would become an MP. She is well regarded within ACT (not a star, but a safe steady performer insiders say) and she is loyal to the leadership. It is a myth that she would be a vote for Heather.

So in my opinion ACT need to do that. However, that still leaves them some problems.

Rodney’s standing is damaged by this, and questions will be asked about why Garrett is deemed necessary to resign now, yet Rodney was happy to have him as an MP when it was secret. Rodney will need to acknowledge that this should have been made public before the election. Now to be fair to Rodney he was not the only person who knew of this.

Another issue, is where did this stuff on Garrett came from? If it did come from people with ACT, then it signifies that they have scorpions in their ranks who are happy to kill off the entire party so long as they can poison their target. As I understand it the number of scorpions is small – four or so. But they may need to be exterminated.

But even if you get past that, you have the very difficult challenge of re-establishing a brand for ACT that can attract support and allow Rodney to retain Epsom.

I would say ACT has mainly had three brands – low taxes, hard line law & order and perk busting.

Both of the latter two brands are destroyed or seriously damaged. That laaves the low tax brand. The problem there is that a minor party’s impact on tax policy is always going to be relatively small. And anything you do achieve the bigger party can get credit for,

What else can ACT build their brand on – they can go down the “Maori Party has gained too much path”. But Winston is already there, and he will always be able to push that barrow more effectively.

They can position themselves as the anti ETS party. But now 1 July has been and gone, and the world did not end, I am not sure if it will be much of an issue next election.

Maybe to some degree, one can’t draw up a path for survival at this point. But one can take a couple of steps in the right direction. See how you are doing, and then plan the next two steps. But any mis-steps are likely to be fatal.

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Do you have a copy

September 16th, 2010 at 1:44 pm by David Farrar

If anyone has a copy of the original post made at Red Alert, which they edited – could you please send it to me.

UPDATE: Thanks to the many readers who sent a copy through.  What they deleted was:

By David Parker and Phil Twyford

We understand this is a serious matter but we think ACT and National have some questions to answer.

To Rt Hon John Key Prime Minister and Minister of SIS: When the Israelis stole identities of children for false passports, did the Government force the Israeli Ambassador to resign and leave the country, and if so, has the Government considered a similar response to Government MP David Garrett?

Supplementary: Has the Minister received any intelligence reports about ACT MPs or is that an oxymoron?

Supplementary: Has the Minister received any intelligence reports about Ilich Ramírez Sanchez (aka Carlos the Jackal) having escaped prison in France and being sighted in Tonga and New Zealand?

To Hon Rodney Hide the Minister of Local Government: Does he stand by his statement that he is bringing “transparency and accountability to local government”?

Supplementary 1:  How can he expect transparency in local government when he in central government has suppressed David Garrett’s criminal record for two years and his own for even longer?

Supplementary: Will he reinstate Heather Roy who has demonstrated a strong commitment to transparency by proactively releasing documents to the media?

To Hon Maurice Williamson the Minister of Customs: Is the Minister confident the new Smartgate system is capable of picking up false passports?

Supplementary: What sort of passport would facilitate the quickest progress through Smartgate: a diplomatic passport, the new Kiwi digital passport, or a David Garrett passport, and is this just more good news for the Government?

Supplementary: What percentage of ACT politicians have convictions for drunk and disorderly behaviour in airports and would this be picked up by Smartgate?

To Hon John Boscawen, Minister of Consumer Affairs: Does misleading and deceptive conduct breach the Fair Trading Act?

Supplementary: Does he think it was misleading and deceptive conduct for Mr Garrett, in his presence, to tell journalists last week that he had no other convictions?

Supplementary: Is it now ACT party policy that conviction politicians must have criminal convictions rather than principles?

Supplementary: Will the Government be prosecuting Garth McVicar and “Sensible Sentencing Trust” under the Fair Trading Act for crimes against tautology?

That’s our first stab. We invite readers to submit their own questions below.  Especially ACT MPs or staffers who may well have more information they wish to share.

Don’t know why they deleted them. I think they’re great!

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Quote of the Day

September 16th, 2010 at 12:46 pm by David Farrar

From Mike E:

MikeE_NZ is pretty happy right now that David Garrett didn’t read The Silence of the Lambs.

Hat Tip: Not PC

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My thoughts on Garrett

September 15th, 2010 at 4:38 pm by David Farrar
  1. Applying for a passport in the name of a dead child is a seriously bad thing to do – even for someone in their 20s. I myself had some well known legal problems in my 20s, but was never this stupid.
  2. It was 26 years ago. By itself it does not make himself ineligible to be an MP, or even a law & order spokesperson.
  3. The decision by the court in 2005 to discharge without conviction was in my opinion correct, but the granting of name suppression was wrong. There should have been some consequences for the offending.
  4. David Garrett was right to disclose this to the ACT Party when he sought nomination.
  5. It was a incredibly bad call to not disclose it publicly prior to him entering Parliament – even more so considering his high profile on law & order issues.
  6. Thinking it would not eventually come out, reflects bad political judgement on behalf of both Hide and Garrett.
  7. As far as I know, a defendant is able to breach his own name suppression, and reveal his or her own court experiences. Using name suppression as a reason not to have revealed this earlier is a cop out.
  8. This, along with the Tongan assault conviction, seriously undermines Garrett’s ability to continue as law and order spokesperson. I’d put Heather into that portfolio, and move Garrett into other areas where he has a strong background such as industrial relations.
  9. Again, if this had been disclosed in 2008, I doubt it would have received more than a passing “Wow what a stupid thing to do when you were young”, and it would not be hurting ACT today, when they least need this.
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Garrett’s conviction

September 14th, 2010 at 9:17 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Act’s law and order spokesman, MP David Garrett, was convicted of assault in 2002 in Tonga, he confirmed last night.

Mr Garrett, who led the party’s “three strikes” policy on tougher sentencing for serious violent offences, has not publicly disclosed his conviction.

But Act leader Rodney Hide said Mr Garrett had disclosed it to him before he joined the Act list at No 5 for the 2008 election.

It was the right thing, to disclose it to the party. The issue is whether it should have been disclosed publicly.

Mr Garrett issued a statement giving his version of events after TV3′s Campbell Live last night revealed the conviction.

Mr Garrett, who worked as a lawyer in Tonga, said he was attacked outside a bar in Nuku’alofa by Dr Mapa Puloka, head of psychiatry at the local hospital.

Campbell Live claimed the altercation was over Dr Puloka’s former wife.

Mr Garrett said his own jaw had been broken in two places after he was attacked from behind.

He had returned to Middlemore in Auckland for treatment and then laid a complaint with the Tonga police. After Dr Puloka was charged with assault, he in turn laid a complaint of assault against Mr Garrett.

Mr Garrett denied the assault and produced two witnesses, the bar’s bouncers, at the trial but was convicted and fined $10.

He had immediately lodged an appeal and has yet to be given a reason as to why it has been delayed.

Dr Puloka was fined $100.

The fact Puloka’s fine was ten times greater than Garrett’s suggests he was the aggressor.

Many MPs have minor convictions but Mr Garrett’s non-disclosure is more relevant because crime is the primary focus of his parliamentary career.

If it was any other MP, then there would be little interest in a $10 fine. conviction. But considering the strong stand David has taken on law & order, it would have been wiser to reveal the conviction (and his side of the story) early on.

But that is the only criticism I would make. I don’t think it undermines the stance David has taken on law & order issues, and his commitment to tougher sentences.

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The sterilisation debate

March 4th, 2010 at 3:24 pm by David Farrar

Bloody Jadis. I turn my back for a few hours and she does a post on sterilisiation of child abusers after listening to Michael Laws on Radio Live. David Garrett comments, and suddenly it is in the newspapers, on Morning Report and all over the blogosphere.

I suppose time to add my own 2c to the debate:

  1. Absolutely against any compulsory sterilisation. Apart from the fact no surgeon will operate on a non consenting patient, the state should not have the power to remove someone’s fertility.
  2. Not supportive of the proposal to pay child abusers to get sterilised, as it will only target poor child abusers, and may be thin end of wedge.
  3. However am open to having a debate on whether one could have it as an early release incentive for people who have been convicted of child abuse and actually gone to prison.

One of the reasons we send people to prison is to protect the community. If someone is sentenced to three years jail for child abuse, then is the community better protected by having them come out at 2.5 years and unable to have more children, or at three years and likely to have more children, whom will grow up abused, and in turn probably becomes abusers themselves.

By not having a monetary incentive, it removes the potential problems of being more attractive to poor child abusers.

Also by limiting it to people in prison, and convicted of child abuse, it means you target the worse of the worse.

I’m sure there are strong arguments against such a policy also, and I am not saying I support it without question. But unless one just wants to wring your hands about the child abuse problem, it may be a more palatable option than monetary incentives which I would not support.

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David Garrett on why he is against the death penalty

November 13th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

David Garrett has a blog I have discovered, and his latest entry is on why he is against the death penalty:

Having lived in a country where the death penalty remains on the books as a discretionary sentence for murder, I can say with some certainty that one of the results of having a capital sentence even as an option is what lawyers call “perverse verdicts” by juries unwilling to convict because they know or believe the person concerned will be executed, and they cannot cope with that on their collective conscience.

I suspect Garrett is right – more killers might be found not guilty, due to juror reluctance to return a verdict which can result in execution.

I have also come to believe that Life Without Parole (LWOP) which is available as sentence in many American States – and soon will be here – IS actually probably a worse punishment than the 20 or so seconds of terror prior to instant death by judicial hanging as was practiced here and in England.

The downsides of LWOP of course include the cost, and as Burton has demonstrated (he will never leave prison alive and he knows it), someone serving LWOP can kill again with impunity – there are guards as well as prisoners in jail – and there is nothing more the state can do.

I have different reasons for being against the death penalty. I just do not like the idea of giving the state the power to execute its own citizens – even the killers. Plus the chance of killing an innocent person.

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That was my suggestion!

September 23rd, 2009 at 5:57 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A diluted but still hardline version of Act’s three strikes policy is now on the negotiating table with the National Government.

Act MP and three strikes architect David Garrett said Act would support any amendment that would have impact, citing a “three strikes and the max” version.

Instead of the third strike offence leading to the offender being “struck out” with a 25-year-to-life sentence, they would instead get the maximum sentence for the offence.

Mr Garrett said this would see an offender whose third strike offence was aggravated robbery serving 14 years – the maximum prescribed in the Crimes Act – rather than the four or five years such an offender would likely serve now.

I wish to point out back in March I blogged:

I would change the third strike from life (with no parole for at least 25 years) to being the maximum penalty set down for that offence

I think this achieves the aim of dealing harshly with repeat offenders, but avoiding the possibility of someone getting a life sentence for a relatively minor offence.

The three strikes and the maximum version would also allow for a “life means life” sentence if the offender’s third strike was murder, which would satisfy the call of many law-and-order hardliners.

Yep. It is worth noting that murderers can also now get sentenced to life with no parole under changes introduced since the election.

I hope National can back the law as amended. The main issue will be what crimes qualify as a strike.

Of interest to some will be whether the amended law, if supported by National, meets the iPredict contract:

This contract pays $1 if the National Party votes for the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill (2009) at its second reading. The Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill must include a requirement that courts impose a minimum period of imprisonment of 20 years for the third qualifying sentence for this contract to pay $1.

It would seem not to meet the contact, based on the Herald story. The longer description is:

1. The National Party votes for the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill (2009) at its second reading.

2. The Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill (2009) includes a “three strikes requirement”, defined below.
For the purposes of this contract, a “three strikes requirement” means:

1. The definition of serious violent offense (or equivalent wording) in the bill includes, at a minimum, murder and attempted murder.

2. Courts are expected to be REQUIRED to impose a minimum period of imprisonment of at least 20 years for the majority of offenders on their third serious violent offence.

As some serious violence offences have maximum penalties of less than 20 years, I think this contract will close at zero, even if National vote for the law as amended. However this is based on the NZ Herald story being accurate!

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Garrett under fire again

August 7th, 2009 at 1:05 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

The firebrand MP is in hot water again after claims that he challenged a Labour MP to “take this outside” during heated exchanges in a select committee. …

ACT leader Rodney Hide said he was not aware of the complaint, but dismissed the claims. “When the Labour Party says things, my experience is they’re not true.”

Rodney has a fair point, but it is also true David has taken a fair while to shall we say adjust to the way Parliament and MPs should operate. Not having been there, I have no idea what really happened.

Prime Minister John Key says if allegations against ACT MP David Garrett are true, Parliament should take a hard line in disciplining him.

That is a good attitude for the PM. I recall a previous PM who refused to comment in any way negatively about conduct of Government MPs not from her party. You gained the impression that if Winston has opened up with a machine gun on Lampton Quay, Helen’s response would be something along the lines of “Winston’s murdering of 87 civilians and three police officers on Lampton Quay was done in his capacity as an MP, not as a Minister and hence is an internal matter for NZ First to comment on. As Prime Minister I have no responsibility for what Mr Peters does as Leader of NZ First”

UPDATE: From NZPA:

ACT leader Rodney Hide says his MP David Garrett did not threaten a Labour MP.

Labour alleged Mr Garrett suggested he and Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove “take this outside” during an argument in a closed session of Parliament’s law and order select committee.

However, Mr Hide says he said “let’s just leave that outside”, meaning “let’s get on with the work.” …

Mr Hide told NZPA he was angry and accused Labour of making up allegations, laying complaints that would fail in order to get media attention; and abusing the process by making public details of a closed session of a parliamentary committee.

He said Labour leader Phil Goff had set a bad example by putting out partial stories to grab headlines.

“If they thought they had a case against David Garrett, and the allegation is a serious one, they would have done it properly, put it to the Speaker and shut up,” he said.

“If someone had threatened another MP in a way that was a breach of privilege it would be very serious indeed, and be sent off to the privileges committee to be handled properly. You wouldn’t be running off to the media.”

If the Speaker decided there was no case to answer Labour should apologise, Mr Hide said.

Rodney makes a good point – if you know your case is strong you don’t pursue it through the media.

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A bad look

July 30th, 2009 at 8:46 am by David Farrar

It is part of our constitutional conventions of parliamentary privilege that people can give evidence to select committees without fear of retribution for what they say. Therefore I regard it as a bad look to see the story:

After Bart Birch, Uaea Leavasa and Satish Prasad criticised how Auckland Central Remand Prison was run under private contractor GEO between 2000 and 2005, Mr Garrett weighed in.

“You say that you don’t want to go back to working in this environment – to the private [sector]. You’d be aware that given your submission here, you wouldn’t get offered a job anyway, would you?”

Fortunately other MPs intervened:

Other MPs were visibly disturbed by the remark and National’s Shane Ardern was quick to reassure the men that they should feel free to speak their minds. “Can I say, from my own party, you can sit here without fear or favour,” he said.

The committee’s acting chairman, Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove, added his support to Mr Ardern’s remark.

David Garrett’s comment was most unwise. You could defend it as saying he was stating the obvious, but in that case there was no need to state it. And at worst it looks like trying to warn people off criticising private prisons.

Questions at select committee should focus on the submission, the bill and related policy issues. If I made a submission arguing that (for example) Kiwibank should be sold, I would not expect to have an MP tell me that I should not expect to ever get any work from NZ Post.

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Unhelpful

June 21st, 2009 at 9:10 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

A Government MP has been reprimanded for lewd conduct just weeks after the resignation of National’s Richard Worth.

Act MP David Garrett was spoken to by party leader Rodney Hide after making sexual comments to a female member of the party’s Parliamentary office.

Hide said last night he had cause to speak to Garrett after learning the fledgling MP had made “off-colour” remarks. He said he hoped the incident would not lead to the end of Garrett’s career as a member of Parliament. …

Hide said the matter could be escalated to the Parliamentary Service – which employs the staff member – if there was a formal complaint. He had met with the staff member to assure her any complaint she made would be handled properly.

Hide said Garrett was “a guy who has come from a rough, tough background”.

“I explained to him we set high standards in our Parliament across all parties.

“It is a learning experience in becoming an MP. I said it is good he can learn quickly – because he has to.”

Act president Michael Crozier said he had been unaware of the incident but expected a report to be made to the party’s board when it next met in a few weeks. “David has a lot to learn. He really hasn’t been in the Parliamentary side of politics before. You have to learn quick.”

University of Otago political scientist Bryce Edwards said Hide could not be faulted for his handling of the incident. But he said the incident was a “blow” for Act and the National Government.

Rodney sounds pretty unimpressed. As he said, you need to learn quickly what you can and can’t say when you are an MP. That’s one reason I’ll never be an MP – my sense of humour is far far too black to survive such a standard.

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Accountability for death of Halatau Naitoko

May 31st, 2009 at 9:55 am by David Farrar

No Right Turn has died of shock, upon finding he agrees with ACT MP David Garrett on how it is “incomprehensible” that the police officer who shot Naitoko is not facing charges.

Garrett says:

While not charging the officer concerned with manslaughter is probably justifiable, it seems incomprehensible that the officer is not facing charges under the Arms Act for failing to properly identify his target

The Herald on Sunday editorial also touches on this today.

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Tension over three strikes law and a possible solution

March 19th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Act MP who designed the proposed three strikes law says National has expanded it to include offences like bestiality in a “Machiavellian” attempt to make it look unworkable.

National has toughened the law by adding 20 crimes like bestiality, incest and acid throwing to the list of “strike offences” that could see a repeat offender sentenced to life imprisonment with a 25-year non-parole period.

But hardline Act MP David Garrett said many of the new offences arguably did not justify a life sentence and were possibly an attempt to undermine three strikes.

“It may be a Machiavellian move by National designed to sink the three strikes provision. Many will say incest, for example, while a deeply unpleasant offence, should not be a reason to send someone to jail for 25 years.”

Good to see there is agreement on that. But I don’t think it is so much designed to undermine three strikes, as that National is focused on the second strike – what offences should mean you do not get parole if you get a second conviction of over five years.

Justice Minister Simon Power said Act had actually agreed to the expanded list of offences.

Mr Power said the list was designed to fulfil National’s own parole policy, which would deny parole to those convicted of a violent offence punishable by five years or more if they had committed a similar offence before.

Mr Power said when three strikes was merged into the bill, “as part of that process Act offered to adopt our list of offences, and we accepted.”

The problem faced here is that you want the second strike (no parole) to cover a much wider range of offences than the third strike (life with no parole for 25 years at least) because the third strike is so severe.

I think there is a workable solution to this, that also overcomes some of the Bill of Rights issues around someone given a 25+ year sentence for an offence that normally has a maximum sentence of say 10 years.

I would change the third strike from life (with no parole for at least 25 years) to being the maximum penalty set down for that offence (with no parole if a finite term).

So what you would have at each stage

  1. Normal sentencing and normal parole
  2. Normal sentencing and no parole
  3. Maximum sentence and no parole

What are the maximum sentences for the various crimes that National wants included:

  • Sexual violation – 20 years
  • murder – life (so non parole of at least 25 years on 3rd strike)
  • attempted murder – 14 years
  • manslaughter – life (so non parole of at least 25 years on 3rd strike)
  • wounding/injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm
  • aggravated wounding/injury – 14 years
  • aggravated assault – 3 years
  • assault on a child – 2 years
  • cruelty to a child – 5 years
  • using a firearm against a law enforcement officer – 14 years
  • committing a crime with a firearm – 10 years
  • Compelling indecent act with animal – 14 years
  • incest – 10 years
  • acid throwing – 14 years
  • robbery – 10 years
  • aggravated burglary – 14 years
  • kidnapping – 14 years
  • indecent assault  – 7 years
  • attempted sexual connection with a family member who is under 18 – 7 years
  • abduction for purposes of marriage or sexual connection – 14 years

This would still provide for very harsh penalties for the third strike, but would not treat murder the same as wounding. Take rape as an example.

The starting point for rape (off memory) set by the Court of Appeal is seven years. So a rape with no aggravating factors would get seven years and with parole the rapist would be out in four years and eight months.

Now if he raped again, the court might give him ten years for the second strike. And no parole means he would serve ten years – double the first strike.

And if he raped a third time, when it is an automatic maximun penalty of 20 years with no parole.

Of course he might get preventative detention also, but that is not guaranteed.

I think this would be a win win. ACT still gets a three strikes law and a major win. The Bill of Rights issues over getting 25 years for an offence set down in statute as having a maximum sentence of say 10 years are dealt with, and most importantly hardcore repeat offenders stay behind bars for much much longer.

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