A guest post by David Garrett:
As most readers will know, just prior to lockdown, Andrew Little was ramming through a Bill which would reverse a law change in 2010 which currently prevents all sentenced prisoners from voting. Labour wishes to revert to the status quo ante, meaning that any prisoner serving three years or less would be able to vote, and thus help determine who governs the country.
Many lay people assume that a three year sentence – which for non strike offenders means the prisoner is eligible for parole after one year – would only be imposed on relatively low level offenders, and certainly not on “strike” offenders who, by definition, have been found guilty of an offence of serious violence punishable by a maximum term of at least seven years. This assumption is totally wrong, and in fact many strike offenders receive sentences of three years or less.
Our first charmer is one Caleb Kovaleski, currently serving a sentence of two years for robbery and threatening to cause grievous bodily harm. The robbery was his second strike offence. He committed his first strike – presenting a firearm at a police officer – while on bail for other offending. He was jailed for that offence and other offending for three years three months in 2016.
His second strike offending – for which he is now incarcerated – was committed just a month after his release, and while he was on parole for the first strike charges. Kovaleski is believed to have over 80 criminal convictions as an adult, with an unknown number of convictions in the Youth Court, i.e. when he was under the age of 17. He is a Nomads gang member or associate. If he doesn’t have his patch already, it is a fair assumption that his current sentence will put him “over the line” to full gang membership. In short Kovaleski is a violent thug with a long criminal history.
The sentencing notes make rather depressing reading. No doubt on advice from his lawyer Kovaleski wrote a letter to the court expressing his great remorse for the robbery, and stating that if he could attend a restorative justice conference he would. The judge bought that line, gave him credit for it, and deducted three months from the proposed sentence. The nice judge also ordered that the sentence for the threatening to cause GBH be served concurrently with the more serious offence to give a total sentence of 21 months to be served in full, as he is a second striker.
It is important I think to note that by coincidence, the sentencing judge was the same for both Kovaleski’s first and second strike offending. Most recently, the judge said:
“It gave me no pleasure to sentence you to prison then [his first strike offending], and it gives me no pleasure to send you to prison now. I am sad to see you back…I want there to be a day Mr Kovaleski when it is the last day you stand before a court facing charges. When that will be is entirely up to you. ”
With all due respect to the good Judge, I suspect the prisoner was stifling a smirk while being told all this. I have little doubt that in two or three years time Kovaleski’s name will join the ranks of the third strikers. I would be delighted to be proved wrong.
Andrew Little thinks this man is as entitled to vote at the coming election as I am, or the hardworking family who run the Kaukapakapa store. I strongly disagree. As the judge notes, whether this thug faces the court again is entirely up to him, as is whether he is entitled to play a full part in society, and vote at the 2023 election.