When Tony Robertson was found guilty of abducting and molesting a 5-year-old girl a decade ago, a judge could have locked him up indefinitely.
If he had received preventive detention then, it’s likely Auckland mum Blessie Gotingco would still be alive now.
But 10 years ago, the sentencing judge opted to show mercy towards the then-teenage Robertson standing in the dock before him – in the hope he would turn his life around while behind bars and emerge a reformed man.
But it didn’t happen.
And Blessie died.
In prison, Robertson completed no courses of treatment.
He was repeatedly denied parole because of his lack of reform.
He continued to deny responsibility for his attack on the 5-year-old girl. It was all a police frame up, he insisted.
Just as he now denies raping and murdering Blessie Gotingco – her death was an accident, and evidence of rape was planted by police, he said.
At least this crime will have a life sentence, and his denial of responsibility should mean he never gets out.
Robertson’s offending began at age 16, in 2003, and included convictions for assault, aggravated robbery, possession of an offensive weapon, wilful damage, threatening to kill, burglary and receiving.
Then came the Tauranga kidnapping, when he was 18, in 2005.
The offending took place over two days, the worst of which was on December 15.
On December 14, he attempted to lure two children into his car with promises of Christmas presents, saying he knew their mothers and would take them home, court records of the case show.
And when he was caught:
And when questioned over testimony from the other children he tried to entice, who had identified him, he said: “Maybe I’ve got a twin brother that drives the same car as mine.”
Not exactly remorseful was he.
Having been found guilty, he was shown leniency by the sentencing judge.
“You are not simply to be assumed a lost cause at the age of 19,” Justice Patrick Keane told him at that time.
The judge opted not to sentence Robertson to preventive detention – which could have kept him locked up for the rest of his life.
Crown prosecutor Simon Bridges (before he became an MP) had pushed for the tougher sentence, arguing further that if preventive detention were not meted out the sentence should be at least 12 years.
But Justice Keane said that though it was possible the kidnapping and abduction was the start of what could become a pattern, Robertson had a history of violent, rather than sexual, offending.
Sadly the Judge got it wrong. I can see why at 19 he was reluctant to give him preventive detention, but let us hope he gets it now.