The Sensible Sentencing Trust

The Herald seems appalled that Ministers addressed an SST conference:

It is a feather in any group’s cap when not only the Prime Minister but the Justice Minister and the Police Minister queue up to address it.

A stamp of importance is conferred and the credibility of its viewpoint is enhanced.

So it was yesterday when John Key, Simon Power and Judith Collins spoke to a conference on victims’ rights in Parliament’s Banquet Hall.

All emphasised, quite reasonably, that the trust represents an important voice. But they also gave every impression of wishing to heed its policies.

Never mind that many of these are too extreme and too outmoded to find their way into any coherent justice reform package.

So what is this important voice the SST represents? Are they a group of lobbyists? Are they a group of academics? Are they a group of public sector funded staffers? Are they a group of politicians?

They are none of those. The vast majority are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children of murder victims.

What many people, including editorial writers, don’t get is there are two sides to the Trust.

Most people see the trust as purely Garth McVicar and his hard-line advocacy on law and order issues. I don’t agree with everything Garth advocates, but I do think NZ is better off for his advocacy – he has provided a voice for victims of crime, who are largely treated as as distractions by the justice system.

But why do so many families of serious crime support the Trust and participate, including new victims such as the Elliotts? Is it simply because they get so angry about what has happened, that they look them up on the web, and send off an application?

What many do not realise is that Garth, and others from the SST, are often there supporting the families of murder victims within days. And if you speak to some of those families, and ask them who was the biggest comfort to them in their darkest hours, their answer will often be the SST. It will not be the legion of taxpayer funded agencies, but the voluntary self funded SST.

The taxpayer funded agencies send in professional counsellors etc. The SST sends in the only people who can truly understand what the family of a murder victim is going through – other families of murder victims. And that support is so invaluable, that is why they in turn get involved with the SST, and make themselves available to future families of victims.

So I am glad that the Prime Minister, Justice Minister and Police Minister all addressed the SST Conference. regardless of what you think of their political advocacy, they deserve those attendances on the basis of the incredible support work they do with victims alone.

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