NZ leading in crime prevention

May 1st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

New Zealand leads the world in crime prevention and putting victims first, according to a visiting criminologist.

Gloria Laycock, a professor of crime science at University College, London, is in New Zealand for the Leading Justice Symposium, held yesterday in Wellington.

She told attendees, including Prime Minister John Key and Justice Minister Judith Collins, that New Zealand’s approach to fighting crime is working.

“I think you think you’re not doing too well, but I actually think you’re right at the top,” she said on Firstline this morning.

“The way things are going in New Zealand, you’ll be having people beating a path to your door.”

Ms Collins says crime in New Zealand is at a 36-year low, which she attributes to stiffer sentencing, rehabilitation “attitudinal change”, among other things.

The Government has had a sensible mix of policies – taking a hard line on repeat serious and violent offenders, plus making parole and bail harder – but also investing heavily in rehabilitation, drug and alcohol treatments and the like.


Dr Jarrod Gilbert on National’s rehabilitation policies

March 26th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Dr Jarrod Gilbert writes:

Out went the old school chief executive Barry Mathews and in came Ray Smith, a man with a ton of bureaucratic experience but none in corrections, and it was the latter that served him well. He has been bold and acted in ways that only the naïve can: unhampered by past failures or concerns. 

Suddenly we are focusing on trying to turn around the lives of prisoners. In short, we are helping them and not just housing them. The culture shift that this requires inside prison walls is one I could not have believed if not for seeing it with my own eyes. The fear, of course, is that all of this will be seen as going soft on crime. And will the electorate support that when for years it has been told ‘lock ‘em up’ is the answer?

Smith is not some mad maverick acting alone, his bravery reflects that of his minister and the government. Smith is overseeing a policy of reducing reoffending by 25 percent over five years. Those aren’t just statistics. Every person who doesn’t reoffend means at least one less victim of crime. 

Former Labour Party President Mike Williams, now with the Howard League for Penal Reform, says Anne Tolley is the best Corrections Minister NZ has had.

This will be one of the interesting elements of this election. What part will crime and justice policy play? Can the National Party, who has done so incredibly well in this area, convince the people that this U-turn is actually in everybody’s interests?

Here’s were I disagree. I don’t think a focus on rehabilitation and a tough line on criminals who do keep reoffending is contradictory or a u-turn. You rehabilitate those you can, and lock up those you can’t.

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Reoffending down

March 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Anne Tolley announced:

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says the Government is now over half way to achieving the Better Public Service target of a 25 per cent reduction in reoffending by 2017.

Reoffending has fallen by 12.6 per cent against the June 2011 benchmark, resulting in 2,319 fewer offenders and 9,276 fewer victims of crime each year.

“These figures are extremely encouraging, and combined with a 17.4 per cent drop in recorded crimes over the last three years it shows our communities are safer,” says Mrs Tolley.

The crimes figures are good, but get impacted by many factors. The reoffending rate is in my view more important. That has real flow on long term benefits.

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A 1500% increase in drug and alcohol treatment for prisoners

March 6th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Anne Tolley has said:

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says there has been a rise of almost 1500 per cent in places on drug and alcohol treatment programmes for prisoners since 2008.

This financial year over 3,700 prisoners will have access to treatment for their addictions, rising to 4,700 next year, up from just 234 in 2007/08.

The Government has expanded the number of specialist Drug Treatment Units in prisons from six to nine, while there has been a fourfold increase in places at the Units. In addition, since last year all prisons have introduced brief and intermediate treatment programmes and Northland and Auckland Women’s have begun intensive support, as part of the drive to reduce reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.

Corrections has so far reduced reoffending by 11.8 per cent, resulting in 8668 fewer victims of crime each year.

“The revolution in offender rehabilitation is going from strength to strength in the key areas of addiction treatment, education and skills training,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Support for prisoners tackling drug and alcohol abuse is just common sense, as we know that these addictions are a major driver of crime.

“All prisoners are now screened for alcohol and drug problems when they enter prison, which allows staff to make appropriate decisions on the amount of support required. This means that every prisoner now undergoes screening for addictions, health, mental health and education when they enter a facility.

When a criminal keeps reoffending, we need to take a hard line and keep them locked up to protect the community. But absolutely we should be investing in treatment to reduce reoffending as that is a win-win. It’s great to see the Government investing so much in drug and alcohol treatment and reducing reoffending.

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Three strikes for burglaries

March 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Burglars will be sent to prison for a minimum of three years without parole on the third burglary conviction under new policy announced today by Act leader Jamie Whyte.

A lot of people may be surprised to know that a very similar policy is the law of the land in the United Kingdom, and was passed by a Labour Government.

Under the UK law an adult burglar convicted of their third burglary must be given a sentence of at least three years in prison unless the court considered there to be “exceptional circumstances”. I’m unsure if the UK law is also without parole, but that appears to be the only possible difference.

So this proposal isn’t some far right extremist policy. It is a law put in place by a left-wing Government in the UK – just one that was hard line on law and order.

It is unclear how many people would be affected in New Zealand by such a law, and what the cost would be. ACT deserve some criticism for not having any estimates at all about impact and cost, but the UK experience suggests it may not be that great.

In 2012 there were 2,693 convictions for burglary (as the primary offence). Around 40% of them or 1,055 received a custodial sentence. That suggests repeat burglars are already mainly getting prison sentences.

How long is the average sentence for burglary, if custodial? A report to 2006 found an average sentence of around 15 months. This is for all custodial sentences for burglary. I imagine it is longer for those on their third conviction.

So there would be some costs associated with this policy, with more burglars in prison and for longer. The potential benefits though are that while in prison, recidivist burglars are not robing people’s homes, and also that the law may discourage recidivist burglars from carrying on.

A report in the Daily Telegraph found that from 2000 to 2008, only 3,018 people had been convicted of a third burglary. The burglary rate halved in the decade to 2010.

So what would be the expected number of third strike burglars in NZ, based on respective populations. They have around 15 times our population so one might expect over an eight year period 200 recidivist burglars to get a third strike. That suggests the costs of such a policy could be relatively modest.

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Two fake lawyers

February 26th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The chief executive of a legal firm stepped down soon after it was discovered he did not have the law degree he claimed to have.

Michael Vukcevic left Auckland firm Baldwins, which specialises in intellectual property law, for “personal reasons”, according to a press release in November.

The 43-year-old is an experienced business leader who has worked closely with government ministers and agencies negotiating free-trade agreements in the Middle East.

A Herald investigation can reveal that Mr Vukcevic does not have a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) as stated on the curriculum vitae he submitted for the job two years earlier.

Pretty embarrassing that a major law firm didn’t check a claimed law degree for its chief executive.

Mr Vukcevic was previously on the board of Transparency International New Zealand, an anti-corruption agency dedicated to promote transparency, accountability and integrity in government and civil society.

Oh, the irony.

Stuff reports on another fake lawyer:

A serial conman with 184 convictions has been told a jail sentence is likely after he was found guilty of deception by impersonating a lawyer.

Brian Hunter, who was described by his own lawyer as a fantasist, yesterday clocked up convictions 183 and 184 after being found guilty of two charges of obtaining by deception in a judge-only trial in Napier District Court. …

Brian Damian Hunter, 55, now has 184 convictions. Nearly all involve dishonesty offending.

He was first convicted in Wellington in 1974.

He has received many non-custodial sentences, and was jailed in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1998.

I think our three strikes law is set appropriately so that only serious violent or sexual crimes result in a strike offence, where your third strike is the maximum sentence without parole.

But I do wonder if we need something similar for the recidivist criminals who don’t beat, kill and rape – but do create victims and misery.

Maybe not three strikes for them, but 30 strikes or even 50 strikes? Basically a realisation that they have decided to remain a criminal permanently, so that any future offending will be an automatic jail term in order to protect the community.


A pitiful punishment

February 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Blenheim man who became enraged and strangled a police dog was sentenced in the Blenheim District Court yesterday.

Lee Peter Kite, 18, of Riversdale, previously admitted charges of burglary, resisting police, cruelty to animals, assaulting police and discharging a firearm near a dwelling.

Judge John Bergseng said the dog has difficulty moving and has still not returned to work after the attack on September 26.

Kite and his brother had gone to an empty house at Lucas St about 12.50am with a knife and a screwdriver.

A neighbour phoned the police because they knew the house was supposed to be vacant.

Police arrived and let a police dog into the property.

Kite became enraged and attacked the police dog, grabbing it around the neck and strangling it, Judge Bergseng said.

When the dog handler stepped in to stop Kite attacking the dog, Kite lashed out, struggling with police until he was Tasered.

The attack aggravated an existing shoulder injury of the police officer, which had to be operated on last week.

Kite was sentenced to three months’ community detention, 12 months’ supervision and $250 hours’ community work.

He was also ordered to pay $593.39 in reparations for the ill-treatment of the dog.

He assaulted police and tried to kill a police dog. And he gets community detention. Pitiful.


Parental responsibility

January 13th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The parents or guardians of young people before the courts could have bail conditions imposed on them as well as their children, such as not drinking alcohol and having to reside at a particular address, under a private members’ bill in the name of Northland MP Mike Sabin.

I’d be cautious about this.

In many cases of a wayward youth, the parents are a contributing factor. But equally, there are some kids who go off the tracks despite the best parenting and family support possible. Having parents share some liability for what their kids do could set a dangerous precedent.

The Children, Young Persons and Their Families (Parent’s and Guardian’s Responsibility) Amendment Bill would allow the Youth Court to set bail conditions for parents and guardians in a bid to prevent re-offending.

Mr Sabin believed at least half of the responsibility for youth offending was down to adults making sure their children were being properly supervised.

Mr Sabin’s bills have been approved by the National Party caucus for support at first reading should any be drawn from the ballot.

I think it is a worthy debate to have, and if it goes to select committee, would be a good forum for hearing that debate. But the possible precedent does concern me.

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A Criminal Cases Review Commission

January 4th, 2014 at 8:18 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Millions of taxpayers’ dollars could be saved by setting up an independent body to investigate miscarriages of justice currently dealt with by a “clumsy and blunt” court process, Canterbury University’s dean of law says.

Chris Gallavin and Labour justice spokesperson Andrew Little have renewed a decade-old debate, calling for the establishment of a Criminal Cases Review Commission.

I’m actually a supporter of such a Commission. It was the Peter Ellis case that convinced me it was necessary.

Little said the current process for dealing with alleged miscarriages of justice was “very ad hoc and there’s no dedicated resources to it”.

He quoted research which showed there were about 12 cases of injustice in New Zealand each year, but only one or two were picked up in through the prerogative of mercy process.

As I said, I support such a Commission. But what isn’t clear is whether Labour is promising to establish one, or is just calling for this Government to introduce one. There is a significant difference. If it is the former, then what are the proposed details of it, what will it cost, and what will its scope and powers be? Much harder to do the detailed work, than to just say I think this is a good idea.


Cherry picking over the imprisonment rate

December 16th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sensationalised mass media, the rise of populist pressure groups and distrust of expert input has led to New Zealand’s Third World levels of imprisonment, a leading academic says.

In a paper titled A Punitive Society, Victoria University criminology Professor John Pratt has attacked New Zealand’s continually rising imprisonment rate and what he terms “penal populism” around crime.

I’ve never ever heard a criminology academic (exception of Greg Newbold) say anything on law & order that isn’t 1000% predictable.

In New Zealand, there are 194 prisoners for every 100,000 people.

This is higher than anywhere in Western Europe and sits between African countries Gabon and Namibia on a global league table.

This is carefully cherry picked as saying that our imprisonment rate is only the 74th highest in the world doesn’t sound anywhere near as sexy. Also note the careful selection of Western Europe only so European and OECD countries such as Estonia, Czech Republic and Poland are excluded.

The crime rate has been falling for years and yet the prison population and corrections spending has ballooned to $1.2 billion this year, Professor Pratt said.

Corrections spending includes rehabilitation and extra money for drug and alcohol treatment. Is Professor Pratt against this?

The leading academic also has the most basic facts wrong. He claims the prison population is increasing. It is not. The latest head count has 8,474 prisoners. Three years ago it was 8,747. That is a decrease.

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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.


A huge bust

December 5th, 2013 at 7:52 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

More than $120 million in drugs and assets have been seized during a record-breaking operation involving 330 officers from police, OFCANZ and Customs this morning.

Forty search warrants were executed at residential and business premises across Auckland and Waikato and 24 people were arrested at the conclusion of an 18 month investigation named Operation Ghost.

More than 330 kilograms of the Class B drug ContacNT was also seized in what police described as “the biggest haul of its kind in New Zealand history”.

ContacNT is manufactured legally in China but is used in New Zealand to produce methamphetamine.

The ContacNT seized during Operation Ghost is enough to produce up to 100 kilograms of methamphetamine which has a corresponding street value of $100 million. …

“Police and OFCANZ have eliminated a criminal network responsible for importing and distributing Class B drugs which are used to produce methamphetamine.

“Operation Ghost sends a powerful message to the criminal community that we will use every legal avenue at our disposal to target organised crime in New Zealand.”

It will be interesting to see who the 24 people arrested are, and if they have gang affiliations.



NZ imprisonment rates

November 25th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Most of us have probably heard at some stage a stat that NZ has the second highest imprisonment rate in the world. Well it seems that stat is massively wrong.

Stats Chat blogs that in fact NZ has only the 8th highest in the OECD and the 74th highest in the world.

Would still be nice for them to be lower – but than comes about if we have fewer serious or repeat criminals – and the recent trend is for both the violent crime rate and the imprisonment rate to be dropping.

Not sure how the myth started of NZ having the second highest rate. Maybe it once was true – but clearly isn’t today.

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Plunket on call for Maori sentences to be shorter

November 25th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Sean Plunket writes:

According to his online CV, lawyer James Rapley specialises in criminal defence litigation and has appeared as counsel in the District and High Courts on numerous high-profile trials involving serious fraud, drug, murder, sexual crimes and other crimes of violence. In May 2004, he began practice as a barrister after working as a senior prosecutor for the Serious Fraud Office and Crown Solicitor’s Office for nearly 10 years. …

He reckons Mika should get a 10 per cent reduction in his manslaughter sentence because he is a Maori.

Most New Zealanders, including most Maori, probably think that is complete bullshit.

I am sure most Maori would.

The High Court judge who sentenced Mika appeared to do so, for while he acknowledged Mika’s personal circumstances, he rejected Mr Rapley’s plea for leniency with these words: “in my view, however, the law in this country is clear that no special discount for race, culture, or ethnicity matters alone is appropriate”.

Sometimes judges can be really sensible.

But the Court of Appeal, which in legal terms is more important than, and senior to the High Court, was convinced by Mr Rapley to rehear his argument for a reduction in Mika’s sentence.

Three Court of Appeal judges considered that appeal this week and rather than reject it as bullshit as most people would, they have reserved their decision.

This may not be significant. I think almost all their decisions are reserved. My worry would be if it goes to the Supreme Court and what Dame Sian might try and convince her peers to find!

I am fairly certain that Mika wasn’t thinking about post-colonial oppression when he boosted a car and left his fatally injured passenger to die on the side of the road back in February and I’m pretty sure he was unaware of the disproportionate number of Maori in prison when he admitted his crimes in the High Court.

We can also safely assume that a 10 per cent reduction in his sentence will do nothing to reduce his chance of reoffending or encourage him to live a less antisocial life.

A 10% reduction in his sentence will I am sure be a 10% reduction in the time taken until he reoffends!

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Should Maori get reduced sentences?

November 21st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Martin van Beynen writes in The Press:

Lawyer James Rapley, representing Fabian Mika, has certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest in arguing that Maori offenders are entitled to an automatic consideration of the history of the Maori people when sentenced.

The Mika argument appears to be as follows:

- Sentencing is largely governed by the Sentencing Act. The relevant section says the court must take into account the offender’s personal, family, whanau, community, and cultural background in imposing a sentence.

- The court must recognise Mika’s Maori (cultural) background.

- The cultural background section of the Sentencing Act is partly designed to address the overrepresentation of Maori in the prison population (about 51 per cent).

- In Canada, under different legislation, the courts take account of the fact an offender is from an indigenous background.

- Maori should have a special status to recognise them as victims of colonialism, displacement, high unemployment, lower educational attainment and a higher level of incarceration.

- Maori are not entitled to an automatic reduction in penalty, but the court must take their Maori background into account in a meaningful way.

- Maori do not need to show a link between their cultural background and the offending. The devastating effects of the historic and systemic discrimination and deprivation of Maori and its intergenerational effects on Maori should be a given.

It looks very much like an argument ahead of its time.

Although it’s a carefully nuanced train of thought, the argument will no doubt be treated as advocating a penalty discount just for being Maori.

Which it is.

Sentencing took take account of an individual’s circumstances, but arguing that every Maori offender should get a reduced sentence due to colonialism is pretty insane.

If the Mika argument was put into practice, sentencing judges would have to start with a consideration of the offender’s ethnicity, a fairly tangled question in itself.

If Maori, the judge would then have to consider how generations of deprivation or dysfunction have shaped this individual.

Sentencing would become a lottery.

If the court makes allowances for being Maori, then red heads or left handers or gays might also have a valid case for special treatment.

Many will criticise such allowances as damaging the important principle of everyone being equal before the law.

And it would damage it massively.

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Life without parole to be sought

October 9th, 2013 at 6:29 am by David Farrar

Blair Ensor at Stuff reports:

Double child killer Jeremy George McLaughlin could today become the first murderer in New Zealand to be jailed for the rest of his natural life.

The Press understands the Crown will seek the toughest penalty – life in prison without parole – when McLaughlin appears at the High Court in Christchurch for sentencing this morning.

That would be a first. Many are unaware that the law which introduced three strikes also introduced the penalty of life without parole to be available for the worst murders.

The 35-year-old was found guilty at trial in April of strangling schoolgirl Jade Bayliss, 13, stealing items from her family’s Barrington St home and torching it in November 2011.

The jury did not know he had previously been convicted of killing Phillip Vidot, 14, in Perth years earlier.

Two dead children is enough. Let’s not risk a third.

Even if McLaughlin avoids the toughest penalty, he is likely to be jailed for more than 20 years.

Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway this week declined to comment about the case.

Human Rights lawyer Michael Bott, who has had no involvement with the case, said the Crown would probably rely on psychological reports, which would need to demonstrate that McLaughlin presented an ongoing risk to society.

“Most people would be perturbed by the nature of the crime in itself. It would be the level of risk that this person would present.”

Criminologist Greg Newbold said some hardened criminals deserved to be locked away for ever.

“I think there are some people who have committed crimes so horrific that they should never be released.

“They have forfeited their right to freedom permanently.

“He [McLaughlin] could well be such a person.”

I guess the question is that if McLaughlin doesn’t qualify, who ever would?

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Latest crime stats

October 2nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Police and Stats NZ have released the latest annual crime stats, for the 2012/13 fiscal year. Major changes:

  • Total crime rate down 7.4%
  • Assaults down 0.1%
  • Sexual crimes rate up 10.8%
  • Robbery rate down 8.2%
  • Burglary rate down 10.1%
  • Thefts down 9.2%
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A nice problem to have

September 20th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Sometimes the Government has to change a target because it is not going to meet it. In this case we have the Government changing a target because they have already met and exceeded it.

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

The Government has reset its target for youth crime reduction because offending by young people has dropped significantly since the goal was set.

The justice sector’s initial Better Public Services target was to reduce youth crime by 5 per cent by 2017.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said today that target had been exceeded – between June 2011 and June 2013, youth crime dropped by 19 per cent.

“Huge effort has gone into targeting youth offending and keeping young people from going before the courts, and it’s paying off,” Ms Collins says.

The target would be changed to a 25 per cent reduction by 2017.

That’s a great problem to have.

Statistics New Zealand figures showed conviction rates in the Youth Court were at their lowest point since records began in 1992.

These figures did not reflect all offending by young people, because most young offenders were not charged and were given alternative penalties.

But Ministry of Justice figures supported the downwards trend in youth offending. Research showed that police apprehensions of people aged 10 to 16 were at a 10-year low.

If the reduction in youth offending can be sustained, then that will flow through in later years to the overall offending rate.


Labour says a protection order revictimises people!

August 30th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Little said:

Victims of violent crime are more likely to be re-victimised than protected by a new Bill letting them to apply for non-contact orders against their perpetrators, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Andrew Little says.

The Victims Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill creates a new type of court order to prevent offenders convicted of a violent crime having contact with their victim and passed its first reading in Parliament today.

“This Bill is just cynical because the victim would be required to apply to the court for an order — at their own expense — and would be required to square off in court with the very person they are seeking to avoid.”

Umm, it is an option – not compulsory. But a very welcome option for those who want to be able to avoid their previous assailants etc. And I suspect a fair few will happily square off in court if it means that don’t have to worry about having them run into them in an alleyway.

“Protecting victims of crime from on-going threats and intimidation by a perpetrator is the State’s responsibility and can easily be done through sentencing arrangements or parole conditions.”

This is either naive, or disingenous. It can’t be done easily, and most of all it means the decision to seek such an order is not the victim’s, but agents of the state. I’m all for allowing victims to decide for themselves if they wish to seek a protection order.

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August 22nd, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

When Chris Lane jogged past three boys on Country Club Road in Duncan, southern Oklahoma, the boys did not see a young man, local police chief Danny Ford says, they saw a target.

“They saw him go by and they said, ‘that’s our target’ and they followed him and they shot him, that’s what he told me,” Chief Ford told Fairfax Media of the conversation police had with the oldest suspect, a 17-year-old boy.

They allegedly shot Lane, Ford said, because they wanted to see someone die.

The 17-year-old was unemotional when he told the story of what had reportedly happened. “The other two were, well I don’t want to use their language but they were basically ‘up yours'; they wanted an attorney.

We all have a fear to some degree of violent, let alone lethal, crime. We try to minimise it by making sensible decisions around not getting involved in crime, where we live, who we associate with, how we engage with people etc etc.

It is cases like the above that are so chilling. It was a pure random and motiveless killing, done (allegedly) by three sociopaths.

Thank goodness such acts are relatively rare.


He’s wrong

August 20th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A convicted murderer and gang member is on the run from police, and is doing everything he can to avoid returning to prison.

Graham “Choc” Te Awa, a long-serving senior member of the notorious Head Hunters gang, has been evading authorities since February 25. He has also told authorities he has a new job as head of security for Polynesian royalty, so does not believe he has to adhere to New Zealand laws.

Well that’s easy – he’s wrong.

It is understood Te Awa may be with John Monga, who goes by the title of High Chief of Aotearoa for the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi, the ancestral name for Hawaii.

I wonder if he has a business card that claims that? The “Kingdom” has its own police force.


Yes, yes, yes, yes please

August 12th, 2013 at 3:49 pm by David Farrar

Blair Ensor at Stuff reports:

Finding out someone’s criminal history could soon be as easy as clicking a button, under major changes to improve public access to court documents.

Justice Minister Judith Collins told the Sunday Star-Times the current system, where people often have to apply in writing to the courts for access to information, is “completely insane”.

She wants all decisions online once the courts have completed a move to an electronic operating model next year. The documents would effectively act as a public register of criminals and improve public safety, she said.

It would also make the court process more open.

“If a matter is heard in open court that anyone can attend, why is it the next day they strangely can’t access that information? People have a right to know about what goes on in their courts.”

This would be so great if it happens. Court decisions are a matter of public record in theory, but in practice have been difficult to access. Having all court decisions online will be great for transparency and great for improved public safety.

Collins has an ally in Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue who believes it is important the public understand the reasoning behind court decisions.

“We welcome any development which would enable the decisions of the District Court to be available in a timely fashion,” Doogue said.

“This would enable transparency and accountability.”

Well said Judge Doogue.


51 prison terms by 34

July 23rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Black Power member says he wants to change his ways after hearing he will become a grandfather.

“I don’t blame nobody but myself,” William Herangi Wanakore, 34, told Judge Allan Roberts prior to sentencing after admitting to his latest raft of offending.

Wanakore, who has 97 convictions, was about to be sentenced to his 51st prison term after pleading guilty to assault with intent, two burglaries and twice breaching protection orders in May.

Not sure what is worst – 97 convictions, 51 prison terms or being a grand dad at 34.


A third of lifers are out

July 17th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Marty Sharpe at Stuff reports:

A third of people sentenced to life in prison are in the community on parole.

Hardliners on crime say this makes a mockery of the term life imprisonment, but the Ministry of Justice says it is an accurate description as people on parole can be recalled to jail.

Figures issued by the Department of Corrections under the Official Information Act show that of the 719 people serving life sentences, 217 have been freed on parole.

I don’t think all murderers should spent the rest of their lives in jail. With the ability to now give lengthy non parole periods, and even life without parole, the sentencing regime is getting reasonably close to where I think it should be.

However what I would be interested on is whether those killers who are now out on parole, have offended since they were released.

Here’s the data I’d like to see.

  • Number of criminals sentenced to life
  • Number who have been given parole, and median and mean periods before parole
  • Mean and median period between being eligible for parole and getting parole, for those who got it
  • Of those given parole, how many have not breached any of their parole conditions
  • Of those given parole, how many breached a parole condition, but were not recalled
  • Of those given parole, how many breached a parole condition, but were recalled
  • Of those given parole, how many have committed further crimes
  • Of those given parole, how many have committed further serious (say strike eligible) crimes

Anyone able to provide or obtain that info? I could OIA it, but am in the Zion National Park in Utah at the moment, so would rather reduce keyboard time to a minimum!

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The Lombard appeal to the Supreme Court

July 4th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve been sent a copy of the appeal by the Lombard Four to the Supreme Court – Lombard Appln Leave to Appeal SC 2 July 2013

I have no particular view on the findings of guilt in regard to the charges. The courts have determined guilt, and that is also one issue being appealed to the Supreme Court.

The issue of more interest is whether custodial sentences are appropriate, when the court has specifically said they accept there was no dishonesty involved. I’ve got no problem with white collar criminals getting custodial sentences when they have defrauded people. But is a custodial sentence appropriate when the court has accepted there was no dishonesty?

The Lombard case involved “honest misjudgments” as opposed to other cases of gross negligence, related lending etc.

It is appropriate directors are held liable for their governance of a company that fails. But are custodial sentences appropriate when there was no fraud or deliberate deception?

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