Non-Sentences

I recently posted a collection of ridiculous court decisions and asked, “Is The Law An Ass?” I suggested that the law was OK but the people who work in and around courts could well be the issue, and upon reflection I think this is more the case. The mere fact that all of the decisions listed here were made in the United States opens up other options, of course, but we continue to see examples of the law being ‘interpreted’ by some in widely differing ways.

I was interested to read a few days ago that a case that was heard (and ruled on) some time ago was to be brought back to court because the original sentence was possibly passed down by one of these legal ‘asses’. A person was found guilty of abusing his 4 year old daughter (and it would seem there was some suggestion of sexual impropriety in the act?) but the judge, in her very finite wisdom decided that because the convicted man was a public figure, and more, a public figure who made people laugh (he is, apparently, one of our favourite comedians) and gave them joy, he would be discharged without conviction.

Now I am a simple layman but to me this means he was guilty of the charge but because the sentencing judge held certain views and opinions, either about the charge or about the charged (or both) he could go on his way with no record of guilt, a free man who apparently had done no wrong.

If this is the case the law is very definitely an ass. A child had been assaulted- how seriously or whether or not there were sexual elements is to a certain extent immaterial. Or whether by a stranger or a family member. A child was assaulted– a defenceless 4 year old child! And the case had been proven- either by evidence or plea I don’t really care- it had been proven!

There have been other unsavoury outcomes from court actions against ‘personalities’. It is immaterial to me whether the person convicted is a sportsperson, a legal-eagle, an artist, a politician or successful business person, or if they are black, white or brindle- if they are found guilty of the crime they were in court to answer for then any name suppression should be lifted and they should be given a punishment that fits the crime. They should not be hidden under a blanket of suppression because to be ‘outed’ would harm their reputations or their business. They should have thought of that before they beat their child, abused someone, drove drunk, defrauded others or committed any of the other myriad of crimes that we see such people charged with.

I guess there is some merit to suppression before guilt is established, but once you’ve been convicted suppression of name, charges and any other potentially damaging information relating to the crime should be lifted. The advice is simple if one doesn’t want to be seen as a horrible person- don’t commit the offence (and for goodness’ sake, if you do don’t say you weren’t aware of what you were doing!)

Come on, judiciary.

“One Apology We Have Yet To Hear.”

A nation feels collective shame and disgust for the incident where a 16 year old youth physically and sexually assaulted a 5 year old girl while she slept in a caravan at a public camping ground in Turangi. Such barbaric behaviour is reprehensible and no reason can be given that could in any way mitigate the boy’s actions. As if in some way taking responsibility for the attack New Zealand citizens both aired their outrage and donated generously to a fund for the injured girl and her family (tourists in a country yesterday declared the “friendliest place on Earth“.) Having seen this public reaction and heard the views of thousands and thousands who felt strongly enough to air them, and having been involved in a litany of cases of disgraceful assaults against children one would have thought our judiciary would have taken a strong and uncompromising view that would reflect the public feelings, and would have stood strongly on the side of the victims. Yet we see this!!!

It’s laudable that the youth felt some remorse and that this should be reflected by him (supposedly) writing a prayer, but I am very skeptical about this given (a) he actually didn’t read or recite the prayer in court, and (b) he didn’t pray for his victim but rather for his own forgiveness. If I’m wrong and he truly felt remorseful, so much the better but this smacks of his whanau (belatedly, it would seem) stepping in and being/looking supportive.

Further, and perhaps even more worrying if we are considering whether and how justice might prevail is the presiding judge chattily commenting on the accused’s natty dress and allowing (inviting) his mother to do the communicating with God thing! Of course this hearing was only an early stage of the pursuit of justice for the wee lady who suffered the horrendous mental and physical hurt but does it set a tone? Should the hearing be about the accused’s state of mind or actually establishing he has a case to answer and putting the victim/s in a place where they know their best interests are going to be served?

There actually seems to be a lack of remorse shown here if it is true, as is apparent by the words of the girl’s parents, that despite the reassurance that the accused appears to have received from the judge he has not made an apology to the girl or her family in spite of the fact that he has indicated he will plead guilty. Is there some point to leaving such an apology to the day he is officially found guilty and sentenced, or would it better serve him if he actually showed his (apparent) remorse by addressing himself less to his own  selfish feelings and more to the incident itself and the irreparable damage he has done to an innocent and defenseless visitor to this, the ‘friendliest’ country.

I must admit here that I have not read or heard the full content of the ‘prayer’, rather I have based my opinions on newspaper reports, but if these are full and to be believed I would share and sympathise with the views of the parents and hold the hope that something happens sooner rather than later to assure them that there is remorse and justice will be done, even though nothing that can be done can undo the horror of that awful day part way through a restful holiday in a country that to all intents and purposes is one of the most beautiful, peaceful and safe places on Earth to be.

PUBLIC TO MARCH IN WAIROA

After the incident at a rugby match in Wairoa where a gang member fired a shot-gun into the crowd, Detective Sergeant McKay said “it’s about time the public stood up and said ‘enough is enough'”. Does a public march satisfy this urging? Will any sort of public meeting change the mindset of the scum who behave as those the public voice is against, do? I doubt it. It’s going to take a deal more than tens, hundreds or even thousands of well-meaning but pissed off people to generate change in the minds of these lawless thugs.

What WOULD generate change would be the leadership of the gang saying “Enough is Enough! We will not put innocent lives at risk any more!” There is no doubt at all that the gang structure is such that there is authority, and the ‘old hands’ have that authority. If what was done at this match was not sanctioned by the gang the guy who fired the shot would be in deep shit. He would be punished. What the punishment might be I have no idea, but I can guarantee he would regret his actions!

Is the laying down or ‘the law’ by the gang heirarchy going to happen? I doubt this also. It’s a pity, it’s probably the best, and maybe the only solution for Wairoa (short of enacting draconian laws and mobilising hundreds of police and turning the district into more of a battle-ground than it is at present.)

That’s what I reckon, anyway.

I was at a conference once that was addressed by a black leader from Harlem. He spoke about the gangs in New York, how it was that there were so many and how much loyalty the members had for their particular gang. His explanation for the success of gangs was simple almost in the extreme- they provided what was missing in the youth’s lives- love (tough love admittedly, but in lieu of none at all it fits), rules for living (not those that ‘normal’ society abide by, but…) and guidelines for living, with limits imposed where the gang desired. The same can likely hold true for the gangs that exist in New Zealand. They are providing the same security for the at risk and ‘lost’ youth that our society has produced. Few people who have been brought up in a loving and sound family environment will end up in a gang, unless it’s a rugby team, a dance-class, or the police force!!

Ms Bennett should perhaps be taking this sort of message when she visits places such as Wairoa, considering such imperatives when she talks with the gangs, and investigating ways of strengthening families when talking to her Department and her caucus colleagues.

“Enough’s Enough.”

Another gang shooting in East Coast town of Wairoa. I wonder what Detective Sergeant John McCarthy expects the public of Waioroa to do when he says “It was yet another cowardly gang shooting in Wairoa and it’s about time the community stood up and said enough is enough.” Doesn’t he think the majority of the community already think enough is enough? Mayor Les Probert seems to reflect my query given his comments- “We’ve being saying enough is enough for some time. We’ve been to Parliament saying enough is enough. We’ve asked for more laws saying enough is enough. But saying enough is enough isn’t going to prove anything.” And so DS McKay says the community needs to stand up. Weren’t the actions of members of the crowd of spectators a clear indication of ‘standing up’? What does he mean- Confront the patched gangs?  What does he expect- Armed vigilantes? It seems to me that this is not something the community can safely do very much about given the apparent impunity that the gangs seem to be able to operate with. Obviously it’s a big job for the police, but it IS the police’s job, not the community’s. DS McKay would make many friends and allies in Wairoa if he stood up and clearly outlined the police’s strategies for ridding Wairoa of the elements in the gangs who are mindless enough discharge shotguns in public places. Then got on and did it!