Three strikes earlier would see Moko’s killer not be eligible for parole

July 7th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The couple jailed for killing 3-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri have more than 100 previous convictions between them, the Herald can now reveal.

Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri died on August 10 last year from injuries he received during prolonged abuse and torture at the hands of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa.

His case shocked, saddened and angered New Zealanders and led to marches in his name against child abuse. Last week his killers were jailed for 17 years for manslaughter.

Court documents released to the Herald reveal that Haerewa had racked up 111 convictions before he killed Moko and had been in and out of prison since 1991.

His offending included burglary, wilful damage, possession of a knife in a public place, contravening a protection order, male assaults female, aggravated robbery, breach of parole, theft, receiving stolen property, escaping custody and a raft of driving charges and bail breaches.

If the three strikes law had been in earlier he would have at least one strike for aggravated robbery. This would mean he would not be eligible for parole for his 17 year sentence for killing Moko.

Having said that, I doubt with his record he will be getting parole anytime soon.

Judges avoiding the harshest penalty

February 17th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Act Party leader David Seymour says a pattern is emerging in which judges are choosing not to give the harshest penalty for murderers under the three strikes legislation.

On Thursday, Hamilton man Turei Rawiri Kingi, 26, was sentenced to a minimum of 13 years’ jail for bludgeoning an elderly man to death with a single strike of a bottle in August.

The murder was Kingi’s second “strike”, or serious violence offence.

Under a provision in the three strikes legislation, Kingi faced a life sentence without parole — unless the judge considered this punishment “manifestly unjust”.

Justice Edwin Wylie ruled that the sentence would be manifestly unjust because of Kingi’s mental health problems and a number of other factors.

It is the third time in three cases that judges have used this clause to avoid the harshest penalty.

He killed within months of getting his first strike. I’m not optimistic that when he is released from prison, he won’t carry on offending.

Mr Seymour said he respected the judges’ decisions.

But he said that the drafters of the three strikes law would probably be surprised that the “manifestly unjust” clause had been used in 100 per cent of the relevant cases.

He said the safety valve clause was designed to prevent injustices in the most extraordinary, “out-of-the-box” homicide cases in which a life sentence without parole would clearly be wrong.

“It is interesting just from a policy point of view to note that so far this … scenario has played out three times, once in Auckland, once in Wellington and once in Hamilton, and each time the judge has said that this is one of these … extraordinary cases,” Mr Seymour said.

What will be interesting is when someone is up for a third strike for a non-murder case, so it is not life without parole but the maximum sentence (say 20 years for rape) without parole. Will the judge then impose the penalty specified under the three strikes law, or will judges continue to find reasons for a stronger penalty to be manifestly unjust?

A good case for three strikes

December 19th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A recidivist bank robber has escaped an indeterminate jail sentence and will instead spend nearly five years behind bars. 

Steven Kurt Peri appeared for sentencing at the High Court at Auckland on Tuesday, after earlier pleading guilty to the aggravated robbery of a West Auckland bank. 

For his conviction he received a second strike warning, meaning that he became ineligible for parole and must serve his entire sentence.

The Crown asked Justice Ailsa Duffy to consider Preventive Detention, an indeterminate sentence which means a prisoner may never be released, to protect the public from him.

That sentence is reserved as punishment for the most serious of crimes, committed by people who are deemed likely to reoffend on a similar level. 

However on Tuesday Justice Duffy said although Peri had made threats, he had never been violent to his victims, and had offered “insight and understanding” into his recent offending. 

In May 2011 Peri was sentenced to three years and nine months for three bank robberies. That was his first strike. If he didn’t get parole he would have got out in February 2015.

Four months later he did another aggravated bank robbery with a gun.

Prior to this:

Justice Duffy told the court on Tuesday that Peri had been deported to New Zealand from Canada after carrying out a number of aggravated robberies there. 

So he is a committed recidivist. He got four years and 11 months this time and is not eligible for parole.

If he does the same again he’ll get a third strike and get an automatic 14 year sentence with no parole.

Edgeler on Three Strikes

October 6th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Graeme Edgeler has looked at offending and re-offending rates before and after the three strikes law.

First offending:

Between 1 June 2005 and 31 May 2010, 6809 people received convictions for strike offences that occurred between 1 June 2005 and 31 May 2010.

Between 1 June 2010 and 31 May 2015, 5422 people received convictions for strike offences that occurred between 1 June 2010 and 31 May 2015.

So strike crime is down around 20% since three strikes came into effect. Claiming cause and effect over something like that is the type of intractable debate that you get into over the effect of longer prison sentences.

A 20% reduction in serious violent and sexual offences is a good thing, as that means 20% fewer people have been bashed, raped, assaulted or killed.

I agree with Graeme that you can’t claim the reduction is caused by three strikes. There are lost of factors involved. I would note though the following trend for violent (non lethal) offending.

  • Fairly constant from 1996 to 2004
  • Increased from a rate of 77.9 to 105.1 from 2004 to 2009
  • Has reduced since 2009 from 105.1 to 87.8

It is not true that the violent crime rate has been decreasing for 20 years. Overall crime yes, but not violent.

Anyway onto the most interesting aspect – reoffending:

But what we are looking at is not the general deterrent effect of three strikes (fear of punishment in the public at large), but specific deterrence: fear of punishment by those who have a conviction for strike offending who have been personally warned by a judge that further strike offending is treated very seriously.

The idea being that when a judge tells you the next serious offence will mean no parole, it may deter you.

We know there were 81 second strikes in the first five years of three strikes. These are people who have been convicted for committing a strike offence after the law came into force, and subsequent to that conviction, been convicted of a further strike offence, itself committed after their earlier conviction occurred. The pre-strike comparison therefore needs to be people convicted of an offence committed after 1 June 2005 (but before 31 May 2010), who were then convicted before 31 May 2010 of a further offence committed after that conviction.

So this is comparing apples with apples. Both the offence and the conviction had to occur within the same five year period.

And it turn out that that number is a lot higher. Had the three strikes law been in place on 1 June 2005, the following five years would have seen 256 offenders receive second strikes.

Now, strike crime is down in general, but the ~20% fall in strike offending is dwarfed by the ~62% fall in strike recidivism.

A 62% drop in serious violent and sexual reoffending is terrific – both for victims, and for perpetrators.

Some will claim this drop has nothing to do with three strikes, and it is because we’ve just magically got better at rehabilitating serious offenders.

But I suspect those people will never accept any evidence that contradicts their world view.

Labour and Greens are vowing to scrap three strikes. I have no hope that anything would convince the Greens to change their minds, but hopefully Labour will see sense and not scrap a law which has seen serious violent and sexual reoffending rates drop 62%.

The inaugural Greg King Memorial Lecture

September 29th, 2015 at 4:52 pm by David Farrar

For those in Wellington tomorrow, could well be worth attending:

The Justice Hot Tub, in association with Victoria University, are proud to announce the inaugural Greg King Memorial Lecture, to be held at Victoria University Law School on Wednesday 30 September (at 6 pm).
The organizers are hoping that the event will become an annual “must attend” event for anyone with an interest in the criminal law and victims’  rights. The inaugural lecture is entitled “Three strikes – five years on”, and is to be given by Professor Warren Brookbanks of Auckland University Law School.
“I asked Warren to give the inaugural lecture on ‘three strikes’ for several reasons. Firstly, his is a well qualified and  credible voice, and  Warren can by no stretch be seen as a mouthpiece for the Sensible Sentencing Trust” said event organizer David  Garrett.
“Secondly, Greg King was – like Warren – opposed to the three strikes legislation when it was enacted five years ago. I believe Greg was somewhat altering his view of it  prior to his tragic death. I will be very interested to hear Warren’s take on how the law is working five years on. If Greg was still with us, I know he would be too”  Garrett said
“While Greg was best known as being a high profile criminal defence lawyer, his involvement with victims’ rights groups was less well known” said Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar.
“I first met Greg when he  attended a victims  conference organized by the Sensible Sentencing Trust. At that event, Greg knew he would be coming face to face with the victims of some of those he had defended. I thought that showed incredible  courage” said  Garrett
“Greg King was a fantastic human being. We sincerely hope he can be remembered every year by a lecture in his name given by someone who  commands the same level of respect as Greg himself did” said Garrett. 

An appeal against manifestly unjust

September 28th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Two murderers face becoming New Zealand’s first criminals jailed for the rest of their lives after an historic appeal of the three strikes law.

The lawyers of Shane Pierre Harrison and Justin Vance Turner had successfully argued such a tough sentence was unfair in the men’s cases, even though criminals with first strike convictions who later committed murders could be jailed for life without parole.

However, the Crown has appealed their sentences, claiming the High Court judges were wrong to fail to jail the two killers for life without parole. 

So the High Court decided that life without parole would be manifestly unjust. This shows that the law doesn’t totally eliminate judicial discretion – which was the intent. But it is good to have the Court of Appeal decide if the High Court got it right.

Harrison jointly murdered Alonsio (Sio) Matalasi during a gang confrontation in Petone, Lower Hutt, in August 2013. Turnerwho bashed and stomped to death a fellow homeless man, Maqbool Hussain, in Auckland in March 2014.

Harrison’s first strike offence was for pinching a policewoman’s bottom and brushing his hand across her groin and thighs in 2011.

At his October 2014 sentencing for murder, Justice Jill Malyon said Harrison’s indecent assault conviction was “relatively minor” and while it could trigger life imprisonment without parole, that was “an entirely disproportionate response”.

“It would be manifestly unjust and is the kind of unfair case that Parliament has recognised can arise in providing the judge with the discretion,” she said in the High Court in Wellington.

She sentenced him to life in jail with a 13-year minimum non-parole period.

But Harrison has killed before. He also killed in 1989. That was of course before three strikes, so can’t be used for a strike. But he qualified for LWOP on the basis of the two convictions under three strikes, and I would have thought his earlier conviction could be a factor in whether LWOP is manifestly unjust.

The other case is of Justin Turner. He bashed and stamped to death a homeless man in 2014 and his first strike was:

Turner’s first strike conviction was for wounding with intent after hitting a female acquaintance in the head several times in 2011, causing traumatic brain injuries. She required life support when admitted to Auckland Hospital and needed ongoing, serious rehabilitative treatment. 


When sentencing Turner in February, Justice Mark Woolford said the 29-year-old could spend as long as 59 years behind bars before he died, which Turner’s lawyer argued was “disproportionately severe”.

I’m not sure it is.

The Harrison case is more arguable as his first strike was relatively minor. But Turner almost killed with his first strike. He did kill with his second strike. The three strikes law is about protection of the community and certainty of outcome to deter crime.

It will be very interesting to see how the Court of Appeal rules.

Looks a lovely fellow

September 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


The Herald reports:

Damian Wereta might be locked up for the next 17 years, but it could have been worse.

The Crown wanted preventive detention — an indefinite term of imprisonment — for the 35-year-old Paremoremo inmate who “shanked” two fellow prisoners.

But this morning Justice Pamela Andrews declined the application, instead jailing Wereta for another 7 years 9 months.

The term will be served on top of the 11 and a half year stint the Black Power member was sentenced to in 2013 for a Dunedin armed robbery and a vicious attack on a group of Corrections officers while on remand.

The father of seven

Remember Labour is proudly campaigning for the rights of people who can’t afford children to have as many as they like!

has an extensive history stretching back to 1997 and features 68 convictions, including an attack on a Crown prosecutor in court.

Sounds like an ideal candidate for preventive detention.

The judge agreed but because the two counts of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm represented Wereta’s second strike, the 93-month sentence would have to be served in full without the chance of parole.

Excellent. Remember again Labour is vowing to repeal this law.

If the law had been in place earlier he would very likely be on a third strike and that means he would have got 14 years, not seven years nine months.

A good example of the need for three strikes

August 19th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The prime suspect at the centre of today’s major man hunt in the central North Island has a history of similar offending.

Dolphy Tetawhero Kohu, 24, is on the run with four other men and women after ramming a police car, shooting at the two pursuing officers at close range then fleeing in the police vehicle about 2.30am.

The rampage echoes Kohu’s criminal past that includes at least two firearms incidents and evading authorities.

Previous reports suggest Kohu has only recently been released from prison after being sentenced to 30 months in jail for shooting at a family in Whanganui.

So what is his record:

  • September 2008 – Robbed a Whanganui dairy with a sawn-off shotgun while on bail for other offences
  • March 2009 – Sentenced to 3 years 9 months prison for the aggravated robbery
  • June 2011 – Sought by police for breaching prison release conditions “over violence matters”
  • March 2012 – While on parole fired a shotgun at a family in Whanganui and spent six weeks on the run from police
  • May 2012 – Arrested in Wellington
  • March 2013 – Sentenced to 2.5 years prison for the shooting

Aggravated robbery is now a strike offence. So his 2009 conviction would have been his first strike.

His 2013 conviction would have been his second strike. He would not be eligible for parole so would only get out in September 2015.

Personally I think he should have got longer than 2.5 years for his 2nd shooting offence but judges get discretion.

However under three strikes, that discretion disappears at the third strike. If three strikes had been in place earlier, then if found guilty of shooting at police officers, he would now get 14 years with no parole.

He sounds like the sort of offender who three strikes is intended for. He has resorted to firearms within days of being released.

But Labour and Greens want to repeal three strikes, so offenders like Kohu get shorter sentences and parole eligibility even after their third shooting offence.

There is some upside. His first offence was before three strikes but his 2013 conviction would have got a first strike, so if convicted for this latest shooting, he will at least not be eligible for parole.


Labour wants to repeal three strikes

June 3rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Supporters of the three-strikes law designed to combat violent crime say it should be extended to cover more offences, with one group saying a similar law could cover almost every crime.

But a critic says more should be done to address the causes of violent crime.

The “three-strikes legislation”, which passed into law in June 2010 after a push from then-ACT politician David Garrett, gives people who commit violent offences “strikes” when they plead or are found guilty.

A first strike serves as a warning, and a second strike requires an offender to serve their sentence without parole.

Someone who gets a third strike must serve the maximum sentence possible without parole, unless the court considers it would be manifestly unjust.

Nationally, 5378 first strikes and 76 second strikes have been given, but no third strikes.

So 98.6% of offenders who got a first strike, have not gone on and committed a second strike offence. That’s great. The certainty of knowing that they will not get parole if given a second strike appears to be a strong deterrent.

The violent crime rate was increasing significantly under Labour and pre three strikes. In 2004 it was 77.87 per 100,000 and it increased every year peaking at 105.13 in 2009. Since then it has dropped every year, down to 87.80.

Labour Party justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said she did not accept figures showed the bill worked, and that more specific research should be done.

Labour wanted the law gone, as it took away judges’ power to look at the circumstances around an offence, with the party wanting to put more focus on helping offenders turn away from crime, she said.

So that is crystal clear. Labour will repeal three strikes.

Guest Post: Highest second strike sentence show law is working exactly as intended

April 2nd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

Highest second strike sentence show law is working exactly as intended

Left leaning pundits have reacted with glee to two recent cases in which Judges have invoked the “manifestly unjust” provision in the “three strikes” (3S) law to avoid what would otherwise have been a sentence of life without parole (LWOP) for two second strikers convicted of murder. I doubt they will say much about Hugh Hemi Tuatua Tareha, who yesterday received the longest “second strike” sentence yet – 12 years nine months –  for sexually assaulting an 87 year old woman.

Tareha is pretty much the epitome of the type of offender 3S was intended to take out of circulation – a violent offender with a lengthy history who has a propensity for sexually attacking elderly women. A propensity which – according to a psychiatric report – is “escalating”, a view which the Probation Service shares.

His most recent offence was not just committed while on parole, but the day after  he had appeared before the Parole Board, which wanted to monitor his progress. At that appearance he fooled the Parole Board a second time – the first was when he was released a year into a sentence of three years nine months for the robbery of an elderly woman because the Board believed he could be “managed in the community”.

At his appearance on  6 November last Tareha, according to media reports,  convinced the Parole Board that he was, “motivated to make changes”. He was warned that he must not take either illegal drugs or synthetic cannabis, and his parole conditions were varied to that effect.

By 10.30 am the very  next day, Tareha was high on alcohol and synthetic cannabis, and attacked his latest victim.  As she weeded her front lawn, Tareha grabbed her as she tried to flee inside her house. He followed her inside where she was “forcefully violated” on the floor of her own home.

 The woman suffered severe bruising, including from kicks administered by Tareha before he left. That same day Tareha talked his way into a 73 year old woman’s house and asked for a “kiss and cuddle”. She persuaded him to leave, and he indecently assaulted her as he brushed past her on his way out.

At trial the Crown sought Preventive Detention, an open ended sentence with a minimum period before an offender can apply to be released. The Judge declined to impose that sentence “by a fine margin”, and instead imposed a  sentence of 12 years nine months – to be served in full because it is Tareha’s second strike.

It is important to note that if was not for 3S, this dangerous sex offender would be eligible for parole in four years, and in all likelihood be out on the street again in  six or seven. Instead, because of 3S, elderly women are safe from his predations for almost 13 years.

It appears Tareha has “mental health issues” which, according to the Judge may not have been adequately addressed during his numerous prior sentences. That may be the case, and if so, the Department of Corrections now  has almost 13 years to make him fit to be back in the community. Somehow I doubt that will happen.

When he is released he will be 44. According to the crim huggers like Mr Workman, he will at that age have lost his propensity to offend. Sadly I doubt that is the case. If he reoffends similarly – as his past suggests he will – he will go away for 20 more years without parole for a third strike.

I genuinely hope his “issues” can be addressed in prison. If they cannot, and he remains a danger to elderly women, then prison is the only place for him. I am very pleased that he will only get one more chance to offend against elderly women before he is eligible for the pension. That almost certainly would not be the case if 3S was not part of our law.

I’m very glad we have the three strikes law and Tareha will have to serve 13 years, not half of that.

Guest Post: Three strikes about to bite hard

October 9th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett, former ACT MP:

Three strikes about to bite hard

When the three strikes (3S) bill was making its way through parliament I told Clayton Cosgrove – in response to an interjection – that it might be ten to fifteen years before 3S would really start to bite. Although Cosgrove immediately tried to make capital from my answer, I was not  unhappy with that prediction – in fact I thought it a little optimistic. In my view we have taken a generation to get into the mess we are in with violent offending, and it might take a generation to reverse it. It seems I was unduly pessimistic.

Unless there are extremely good reasons which would preclude such a result, we are about to get our first  “strike” offender sentenced to Life Without Parole (LWOP) for murder as a second strike.  Justin Vance Turner, aged 28, has pleaded guilty to murder. It is his second “strike” offence, and accordingly, he should be sentenced to LWOP in accordance with s.86E (2) of the Sentencing Act. That section requires that a stage two offender guilty of murder should serve a sentence of LWOP “unless the court is satisfied that given the circumstances of the offence and the offender, it would be manifestly unjust to do so.”

The “manifestly unjust” provision was one of the conditions the Nats required in order for them to support the 3S Bill beyond first reading. It did not take long for ACT to agree to the amendment. The words “unless…manifestly unjust” have already been defined in case law. It is a very high hurdle to surmount. If for nothing else, Justice Graham Lang’s sentence notes will be pored over by everyone interested in 3S to see what he says about that phrase in the 3S context.

So what  “circumstances of the offence and the offender”  could cause Justice Lang to sentence to life imprisonment with a finite minimum Non Parole Period (NPP) instead of LWOP? As for the offence, in my respectful view there is absolutely nothing which would justify giving Turner the benefit of the “manifestly unjust” proviso. If the news report is accurate, the hapless victim – a homeless man – was kicked and punched until unconscious, and then Turner “continued stomping on him with enough force that  his head bounced off the floor.”

Given that Turner told police his intent was to kill, it would seem he had little choice but to plead guilty – although I suspect the motivation for the plea at an early stage (the trial was to begin on 1 December) was to try and avoid LWOP on the basis of an early guilty plea. Again in my respectful view, that is no reason to depart from the presumption created by s. 86E (2). Nothing in the 3S provisions of the Sentencing Act suggest early guilty pleas should be a factor in sentence.

What about the “circumstances of the offender”? Because of privacy laws we know little about him other than he has a first strike to his name  for serious  violent offending. There is a suggestion from the terms of the remand that his fitness to plead may have been an issue, but clearly that is no longer the case.

Again in my respectful view, if the court was to find that because of some psychological condition falling short of a “disease of the mind” which would be a reason for an acquittal Turner was prone to episodes of extreme violence, this ought to be even more reason to lock him up for the rest of his life. It is clear from his actions that he is a menace to society, and given his age, he will be for a long time.

One option the Judge has is to decline to impose LWOP, but to give a very lengthy NPP – say thirty or even forty years. If the Judge chose to go down that route the sentence would almost certainly be appealed. That is no bad thing, as it would give the Court of Appeal the chance to make some observation on the decision to apply the “manifestly unjust” proviso, and on the length of minimum NPP that ought to be imposed if the proviso was applied.

Finally it should be noted that LWOP as a possible sentence for murder was not  part of the original 3S Bill, although it was passed into law at the same time. At the 2008 election both ACT and the Nats campaigned on making LWOP available for our worst murderers.  From the aftermath of the  2014 election it appears both ACT and the Nats have lost the appetite  for law and order measures. In time, 2008 -10 may come to be regarded as a brief “window”  which opened and allowed our justice system to start dispensing real justice to killers – and their victims.

Another candidate for three strikes

September 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The demolition worker who choked a Dunedin man to death in a bar toilet was a “parasite” who showed no remorse in court yesterday, a grieving uncle says.

Stephen Anthony Fernyhough, 26, snapped at the victim’s supporters as he was sentenced in the High Court at Dunedin to five years in prison for the manslaughter of Ryan Court, 35, in the Craft Bar on April 27.

Details of Mr Court’s death prompted gasps and several outbursts from a packed and tense public gallery, with Fernyhough, flanked by two guards, responding “f…wits”.

“Shut up, you weren’t there.”

Earlier, the court heard how Fernyhough, who had 76 previous convictions over a nine-year period, used a choker hold on Mr Court for between 20 and 40 seconds, following a disagreement in the men’s toilet.

“Don’t mess with the wee man,” Fernyhough said as he left the unconscious man and fled the scene with his associates.

If three strikes was in earlier, and two of his 76 previous convictions were strike offences, he’d be in for 20 years, not potentially out in two years

SST analysis of three strikes

August 29th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Sensible Sentencing Trust has done an analysis of the three strikes legislation (which may be gone if the Government changes). As at the end of 2013, the stas are:

  • 1st strikes 3,721
  • 2nd strikes 29
  • 3rd strikes 0

It’s great to see so few second strikes, and that so far there have been no third strikes.

They have a profile of the 24 2nd strikers:

  • 100% have numerous prior convictions as adults. And these are not for minor offences. They include burglary, male assaults female, possession of offensive weapons, robbery, aggravated robbery, indecent assault, theft and many others.
  • 46% have prior convictions for ‘strike’ offences before Three Strikes taking effect on 1 June 2010. Because Three Strikes was not implemented ‘retrospectively’ these prior offences do not count as ‘strikes’ against their record.
  • The average age of second strikers is just under 26 years, and all but one are men. The youngest second striker is 19 years old, and the oldest 45 years old, at the time of second strike sentence.
  • 67% received a sentence of imprisonment for their first strike offence/s. Of those imprisoned, the average term was 14% of the maximum available. The average term imposed was 20 months.
  • 38% of first strikers committed their first strike offence while on bail, parole or while still subject to sentence.
  • 67% of second strikers committed their second strike offence while on bail, parole or while still subject to sentence.
  • 92% received a sentence of imprisonment for their second strike offence/s. Of those imprisoned for their second strike offence/s, the average term was 24% of the maximum available. The average term imposed was 35 months. The term imposed is served without parole or early release under the three strikes law.
  • 67% committed their second strike offence while on bail, parole or while still subject to sentence.

The fact that 38% of second strikers committed their first strike whole on bail or parole is telling.

Strike Two

July 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Hastings man who sexually assaulted an 87-year-old woman in her home was on parole at the time.

Name suppression on Hugh Hemi Tuatua Tareha, 30, was lifted yesterday after he admitted the attack on November 7 last year.

It can now be revealed that he attacked another woman on the same day – and that he was on parole at the time for the robbery of an elderly woman.

Tareha had been before the Parole Board just the day before and had led the board to believe he was motivated to make changes.

“We are pleased with his performance,” the board wrote in its report on November 6.

Well they got that one wrong.

Yesterday, Justice Simon France entered the convictions and noted that Tareha would receive a second strike under the three strikes legislation at sentencing in September. He ordered a cultural report and two health reports, as the Crown was seeking preventive detention. Tareha was remanded in custody.

This is excellent. No parole for him next time, and if he offends again, then he will receive the maximum sentence for his crimes.

Make sure you vote to retain the three strikes law at the election.

ACT proposes three strikes for burglaries

April 21st, 2014 at 7:50 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

More than 2000 families will return home this Easter weekend to find they have been burgled, and Act says it is the only NZ political party to offer a serious solution.

Party leader Jamie Whyte outlined its policy on the crime today, confirming that burglars will spend three years in prison if convicted of the crime for a third time under its policy.

Three years for a third strike sounds about right.

The maximum sentence for burglary is ten years imprisonment. The three strikes for burglary policy would send all burglars to prison for at least three years without parole if convicted of the offence three times, whether it be in one burglary spree or over many years.

The idea is that burglars stop burgling. With only 2% of burglaries resulting in imprisonment, then the risk of getting caught and convicted doesn’t outweigh the benefits of being a burglar.

Mr Whyte said burglars convicted of one or two charges of burglary will not see any change to their sentence, except that a judge would warn the offender of the serious penalty of another offence.

That’s a key thing. After the second strike they need to be aware that a third strike will result in a significant jail term.

Mr Whyte said currently about 4000 New Zealanders are sitting on a first strike, 32 on a second strike and no one has been convicted of a third strike offence under the three strikes for violent crimes policy.

That’s a great success. We don’t want people getting a third strike.

The policy is modelled on a three strikes for burglary law introduced in England and Wales in 1999. Burglary in England has since dropped by 35 per cent since the introduction of the three strikes. After a third conviction for burglary offenders in England are imprisoned for three years with parole.

So this is a policy introduced by the UK Labour Party. If National wins re-election I am optimistic they would agree to support this policy, if ACT make it a key policy for their support. NZ Labour will oppose it I suspect – as they also opposed the three strikes law for serious violent and sexual offending.

Maybe three strikes for burglaries isn’t a bad idea

March 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader sent me a link to this 2012 story:

One of New Zealand’s most prolific burglars – with 388 convictions to his name – has been sent back to jail, but is hopeful he can change his ways.

Allan Tremain Adams, 41, added two more burglaries to his bulging list on April 17 when he broke into Autocraft in Tremaine Ave, Palmerston North.

He got away with nothing after activating the alarm but then broke into the Willard Rest Home in Russell St and stole $1200 of petty cash.

Blood stains found at the two premises led police to Adams, who was released from his previous prison sentence late last year.

In Palmerston District Court yesterday, he was sent back for two years and nine months on two charges of burglary and one of breaching parole.

Adams has 439 convictions in total and began offending when he was 12 years old and committed arson.

439 convictions and a sentence of under three years!

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.

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.


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.

A prime candidate for three strikes

August 17th, 2013 at 8:30 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

A man whose “appalling” record of violent offending is the worst a judge has seen has jailed for five years and nine months.

Justin James Taia, 40, was sentenced today on a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to injure after being found guilty by a Christchurch District Court jury.

Taia beat up a St Albans neighbour, Vaea Lam, who suffered serious head and brain injuries and had to have part of his skull removed. He lost five teeth.

Crown prosecutor Deidre Orchard said the head injury almost resulted in Lam’s death, and Taia had an alarming history of violence.

Lam was in court, and Taia called out: “Yeah, but I didn’t start this. You should man up, man.”

Full of repentence!

Taia had the most appalling record for violence he had seen, with 16 previous violence convictions.

Sadly he was in court just two years ago.

A man who punched and stomped on his mother, and attacked his wife, both of whom had protection orders against him, was jailed today. 

Justin James Taia, 38, was sentenced at Christchurch District Court after being convicted of assaulting his mother with intent to injure her, assaulting his wife, and two charges of breaching protection orders.

Judge John Strettell said these were Taia’s 12th and 13th assault charges and his sixth and seventh breaches of protection orders. …

He sentenced him to 18 months imprisonment, with release conditions to attend counselling programmes and treatment as recommended by his probation officer.

He came close to killing someone this time. I presume he now has his first strike offence. Its madness that he just goes in and out of jail time after time, and his list of victims grows larger.

France drops three strikes

July 12th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The BBC reports:

France has halted an anti-piracy policy that threatened persistent offenders with internet bans.

A law passed by the previous government had let local courts suspend copyright infringers’ connectivity for up to a month if they were caught three times.

It was supported by the entertainment industry, but France’s current culture minister had said that she thought the penalty was “disproportionate”.

File-sharers still face fines of up to 1,500 euros ($1,923; £1,292).

The government added that it would now focus its efforts on sites that made money from offering illegally copied content rather than individual users.

Suspension is disproportionate. Good to see France call a halt to it.

A schoolyard bully

May 30th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News reports:

The ACT Party is challenging a criminologist who says the three strikes sentencing law is unfair.

The law is an ACT initiative and means a violent criminal gets a maximum sentence on a third conviction with no parole – even if they plead guilty.

Victoria University criminologist John Pratt has raised the case of 21-year-old Hastings man Elijah Whaanga, who was handed his second strike last month for two street muggings and jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Mr Pratt told Radio New Zealand Whaanga is “nothing more than a schoolyard bully” and hitting him with three strikes would be unfair punishment.

A schoolyard bully?

This confirms my view of most criminologists, Greg Newbold excepted.

But ACT president John Boscawen, a former MP who took the three strikes law through Parliament, says that’s rubbish.

“The so-called schoolyard bully is in reality a violent young man with over 72 convictions,” he said.

“He is exactly the type of criminal three strikes was intended to target.”

Mr Boscawen says Whaanga’s first strike was for two aggravated robberies, and his second and final warning was for another two aggravated robberies.

72 convictions? Yeah, just a schoolyard bully.

Another case for three strikes

May 20th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A man with more than 100 convictions – and described as a danger to the public – has escaped being locked up for life after he committed an armed robbery of a Kapiti supermarket.

So how long did he get?

It was the latest in a long list of robberies, and it happened while he was on parole.

However, on Friday a judge accepted that treatment, including medication for depression, might yet reduce the risk that Lawson posed.

Lawson was sentenced to eight years’ jail on charges of aggravated robbery and kidnapping, and has to serve at least four years and nine months before he can be considered for parole.

The fact he was on parole when he did this armed robbery suggests parole is not that great an idea for him. But the good thing is under three strikes, he will not be eligible for parole the next time he does an armed robbery.

Lawson had been out of prison for almost seven weeks when he robbed the Paraparaumu Countdown.

In 2001 he had been sentenced to 10 years’ jail for four robberies. He was said to like expensive and showy items, and after the robberies he bought a Jaguar car and a boat.

Paroled in 2008, his freedom had ended after a “sophisticated” burglary targeting the safe at an Ohakune supermarket in July 2009.

It not only earned him a recall to serve out the rest of his long sentence but also added another 18 months’ jail time.

If three strikes had been implemented earlier he would now be on at least his third strike and away for a much longer time.

The first robbery on Lawson’s list of more than 100 convictions had been for stealing the car that two associates used in an armed holdup of a jewellers in the Wellington suburb of Kelburn in 1994. He pleaded guilty to being a party to the crime and was jailed for 4 years.

He’s been offending with weapons non stop for around 20 years. Call me a pessimist, but I’m not sure he is about to see the error of his ways.

The left vowing to repeal three strikes

May 1st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party all say they would repeal or alter the three-strikes legislation after the issuing of a second strike to Hastings man Elijah Whaanga.

Whaanga, 21, was sentenced to two years’ jail and issued with his second strike by Judge Tony Adeane in the Napier District Court on April 18 after pleading guilty to two charges of aggravated robbery.

I understand he has a total of 72 convictions. I look forward to Labour and Greens campaigning up and down New Zealand that he should be given not 3 strikes, but 73.

Whaanga, who now has 20 convictions as an adult, was given his first strike in 2010 for a violent aggravated robbery for which he was jointly charged.

Presumably 52 of his convictions were as a youth. He has raked up a huge number of criminal convictions in a very short time. Hopefully the thought of 14 years prison for another aggravated robbery will mean he stops offending, and he creates no more victims.

But’s let’s say he does continue upon his ways. Well then for the next 14 years there will be no more victims. While prior to three strikes, he’d probably chalk up another 50 or so convictions over the next 14 years.

The Greens would “definitely” seek to repeal the law if they came to power, Mr Clendon said.

No surprise there.

Labour justice spokesman Andrew Little said the party had not committed to repeal the law but believed there were parts that might need to be altered.

Labour’s policy in 2011 was to repeal it, off memory. They voted against it, and I have no doubt they will repeal it unless they give a cast iron assurance not to before the election. However, even if they claim they will just amend it, the nature of MMP means that they may agree to its repeal as part of a coalition agreement with the Greens. Under MMP, you can’t hold parties to their manifestos unless they get a majority in their own right.

Strike Two

April 29th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The controversial “three strikes” legislation has seen a young man jailed without parole and warned that if he steals another skateboard, hat or cellphone he will spend 14 years behind bars.

In issuing Elijah Akeem Whaanga, 21, his second strike, Judge Tony Adeane told the Hastings man his two “street muggings” that netted “trophies of minimal value” meant his outlook was now “bleak in the extreme”.

“When you next steal a hat or a cellphone or a jacket or a skateboard you will be sent to the High Court and there you will be sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment without parole,” Judge Adeane said.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the case showed the law was working. Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar agreed, saying the sentence of two-and-a-half years’ jail with no parole was “fantastic”. 

Victoria University criminology professor John Pratt said the case “highlighted fundamental problems” with the law.

“Was this really the type of offender that the three strikes law was meant to protect us from?”

Whaanga’s offending stretches back to 2006, including burglary, theft, resisting arrest and indecent assault. He served a short prison sentence in early 2010.

Stealing is not a strike offence, but aggravated robbery is. From what I can see Mr Whaanga has had four strike offences so far – but two before the legislation was passed.

If he does not commit any more strike offences, then he won’t get the maximum sentence with no parole.

I’ll freely say that Whaanga doesn’t appear to be the worst criminal out there, but I don’t judge a policy on sole cases. And if he is stupid enough to get a third strike, then the Judge does have discretion to make him eligible for parole if it would be manifestly unjust not to do so. So if he does another aggravated robbery and gets the maximum 14 years, a Judge could still make him eligible for parole after four years and eight months.

By the end of last month there were 2684 offenders on their first strike and 17 on their second strike.

This may be because it is early days, but the very small number of second strikes compared to first strikes *might* mean that the hoped for deterrent effect is working.

In around five to ten years we will get some fascinating data looking at reoffending rates before and after the three strikes law. That is if Labour and Greens do not repeal it before then – as they have promised to do.

UPDATE: Commenters have said that Mr Whaanga has a total of 72 previous convictions, so shorter sentences do not seem to have worked with him.

Throw the key away

February 13th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A man convicted of multiple charges made a rude gesture to a judge after he was sentenced to prison.

Joel Twain McVay, 34, held up his middle finger to the judge, told him he would not follow some of his sentence, and swore at a police officer after his sentencing in the Blenheim District Court yesterday.

A pretty good sign he will not stop offending.

McVay was sentenced on his fourth drink-driving conviction and 19th conviction for driving while disqualified, as well as burning his partner’s belongings and assaulting her.

The Police should wait outside his place and just arrest him as he jumps in a car.

Judge Richard Russell said it was McVay’s 10th assault conviction. He sentenced him to two years and one month in prison after he admitted charges of refusing to give a blood sample, driving while disqualified, assault and wilful damage.

Only 25 months? His 10th assault conviction.

I’m not sure if his type of assault was serious enough to get a strike – but I hope so in the sense that he look to be a prime candidate for getting the maximum sentence with no parole. A lot fewer people will end up assaulted by him that way.