One sentence too harsh, one too light

I normally highlight sentences which I think are too light, but in this case I’m starting with one I regard as too harsh, even though it was murder. The case of Cherylene Lawrence:

A mother who murdered her terminally-ill daughter has been jailed for six and a half years.

Cherylene Lawrence, 49, was sentenced in the High Court at Napier on Friday after pleading guilty to a charge of murder in September. …

She acknowledged that Chevana was particularly vulnerable, but took into account her “overall impression” of the case, specifically the pressure she was under to care for Chevana, the emotional impact of her deteriorating condition, the desire to end suffering, and the fact Lawrence posed little to no risk to public.

Gwyn said “the pain of watching your daughter deteriorate over the last 13 years of her life is unimaginable”. She acknowledged the professionals she dealt with often did not know how to care for Chevana.

Lawrence had dedicated much of her life to ensure Chevana had a good life, and this meant she had to sacrifice a lot, the judge said.

“It’s clear to me your personal circumstances would make life imprisonment manifestly unjust.

The Judge was right to find this is a case where life would be manifestly unjust.

At just 16 Chevana had been diagnosed with juvenile Huntington’s disease, a less common early-onset form of Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s disease causes the progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain, resulting in movement, cognitive and psychiatric disorders.

Chevana’s condition deteriorated steadily over the years. She resided at care facilities until moving back home with her mother late last year.

Chevana would often lash out at her mother and other caregivers.

Lawrence struggled to cope. She became sleep-deprived and her mental health suffered. By mid-December she became despondent. She cried the whole time, and felt her daughter no longer had any quality of life.

In these circumstances I think even six years is excessive, I’d even consider home detention.

And contrast that with this case:

The man appeared before Judge Tony Greig this week on a representative charge of sexual violation.

Judge Greig outlined how the offending started when the man was almost 14, and his sister 11.

He said the man sexually violated and raped his sister on a “number of occasions”.

The judge said no sentence he could impose “would undo the harm you’ve caused”.

He outlined how the man had no previous convictions, had not offended since, had entered guilty pleas and showed true remorse.

Greig also took into account the sheltered childhood the man lived, with a “lack of sexual education”, and how when he got a computer he came across pornography.

“Anecdotally, pornography has led to a huge increase in sex offending in teenagers.”

He said “you would only have to casually peruse” pornographic sites to see that many portray non-consensual sex.

“It’s a well known problem, and as far as I’m aware, nothing is ever done to try to rectify it.”

Greig said he had to look at the man’s moral culpability, and the “seriousness must be viewed through the lens of you at the age of 14, 15 and 16”.

“For that reason” he discharged the man without conviction and ordered he pay his sister $10,000.

He raped his 11 year old sister repeatedly, and he got discharged without conviction!!!

Sure these is case that he doesn’t need to go to prison, but to discharge without conviction just seems absolutely wrong.

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