A man who grabbed a prison officer on her bum has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
The length of the sentence for the offence involved – and the legislation that enforces it – has earned stern criticism from sentencing judge Kit Toogood.
Auckland man Raven Casey Campbell, 25, was facing the distinct possibility of having to serve out the full term of his sentence, with no chance of parole, when he appeared for sentence in the High Court in Hamilton on Thursday.
Campbell had committed two violent offences previously – and was now on his third strike, meaning he would have to serve out the full term of the maximum available sentence.
The maximum for indecent assault is seven years.
It was the first time a “third-strike” sentencing has been imposed under the law, brought in six years ago.
On considering submissions from defence counsel Thomas Sutcliffe and Crown prosecutor Rebecca Mann – as well as letters written to the court and the prison officer by Campbell himself – Justice Kit Toogood opted to refrain from imposing the full available sentence for the crime.
A female Corrections officer had been supervising prisoners in an area called the kit locker, where they exchange their clothing, towels and bedding for fresh items.
Campbell approached the officer from behind and grabbed her right buttock, squeezing it hard, and holding on for about one to two seconds.
“You were told to go to the guard room but you did not make any attempt to move,” Justice Toogood told Campbell.
“When the Corrections officer went to leave the yard through a set of steel gates, you followed her, grabbed the gate, and asked if you could talk to her.”
Campbell was told to move, and he did so. But his actions had already had an effect: The prison officer was distressed by the bottom grabbing incident and consequently had to take time off from work.
“You have said that you really liked the officer, that you grabbed her as a bit of a joke and you thought your actions would be taken that way,” Toogood said.
As well as his aggravated robbery, Campbell had been convicted of robbery and demanding to steal in 2013 – offences that earned him a stage one warning to accompany his sentence of community work and supervision.
I have no problem with this sentence. A third strike is not just about the most recent offence but also the previous offences. He seems an unrepentant criminal and we’re safer with him in prison – even if the prison officers are not.
“I have no option but to sentence you to the maximum term of imprisonment prescribed for the offence – seven years’ imprisonment. I agree that is very harsh given that what you did was not the most serious assault of its type, but Parliament has determined that your history of violent offending requires a very stern response to protect the public from you and to act as a deterrent to you and others.
“It may seem very surprising that this consequence could be required by law for an offence of this kind, but that is the law and I have no option but to enforce it.
“Were it not for the requirement to sentence you to the maximum term of seven years, the need to denounce your conduct, hold you accountable and deter others and you from such offending, it would likely have resulted in a period of no more than 12 months’ imprisonment.”
Toogood sentenced Campbell to seven years in prison, but Campbell is still able to apply for parole once a third of that term has passed.
So a good outcome. If he behaves well he can be out in two years four months but he continues to assault female prison guards he’ll be in for seven years or even longer.
Hopefully he has learnt a lesson about the consequences of criminal offending when you already have two strikes offences.