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Sensible Sentencing Trust
Newsletter May 2003
Help Balance the Scales of Justice
Sir Russell H Pettigrew - Patron
Anne and I started the Sensible Sentencing Trust because of our concern at the direction our country and society was going. While our own personal lives have been successful, we were angry and ashamed at the New Zealand we were leaving our children. My frustration at the break down of our Justice and Law & Order system in this country was something that was becoming a priority for me as our own children grew up, and the demands and responsibilities of being a parent became less.
The huge waste of potentially exciting young lives, (both victims and offenders) due to a lack of policies that would encourage individual responsibility and accountability was something I could not accept.
Anne and I will be eternally grateful to the many wonderful New Zealanders who have helped build the Sensible Sentencing Trust into an organization that is having continual input and influence into the direction Justice is now taking.
Most of our members will be aware that Sensible Sentencing, was never a single-issue organization. We focused on the "Life means Life" or the longer sentences issue, simply to bring about public awareness and motivate the community. That is now beginning to happen, with the recent sentencing of 28 years for Bruce Howse by Justice Goddard, and 33 years for William Bell by Justice Potter. The significant thing here is that those sentences were non-parole, meaning that is the minimum time they will spend in jail.
While we still believe that "Life" should mean "Life without Parole", it is important to acknowledge the shift to what is now being termed "Sensible" sentences. Most of us would remember it was not long ago that Raymond Ratima received 10 years for killing seven people!!
We believe that it is important that we acknowledge the work our Justice Minister, Phil Goff has done in this area. Mr Goff inherited the chaos, he did not create it. While he may not be moving as fast as you and I would like, he is probably moving as fast as our political system allows. It is up to organizations like Sensible Sentencing to bring about public awareness and in turn motivate the political arena.
Leadership by Government is a thing of the past; modern day governments monitor opinion polls and simply fine tune policies to reflect those findings. The task for the Sensible Sentencing Trust is to direct the opinion polls by motivating the community to ensure our voice is heard by Government.
Those vibes are now being picked up by influential politicians. The courageous comments by John Tamihere are an indication of how he is reading the mood of the country. What John is saying makes sense and he is part of a new breed of politician who will be our future leaders.
We would like to acknowledge, Stephen Franks, Mark Alexander and Debra Coddington, politicians who I am sure will make a difference with the fight towards Justice Reform.
Thank you members for your continued support.
We plan to be here for a long time yet....
"The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good men and women to do nothing"
- C. Burke
Enclosed with the newsletters are two of our NEW brochures with Danny Alkema's story. We challenge existing members to enrol two new members. This will help us acheive greater than ever newsletter coverage throughout New Zealand, greater increasing public awareness of our work.
NOTE : Since going to print, Kate Alkema's murderer, Nika Abraham
received a pathetic 13 year non-parole sentence!
Is that Justice?
We all know that no dollar value can be put on the loss of a loved one. The trauma of living, having been raped or beaten; the fear of sleeping alone after being burgled. No matter how petty or serious the crime, there is always an emotional price to pay.
Unfortunately that is not a major consideration in our Justice System so we have to talk in dollar terms to our lawmakers. Their usual cry is "lack of funding" for Probation Services, Corrections Department, Parole Boards etc. Do they really think throwing more money at a problem is the only solution? How much does accountability cost?
The purpose of Parole is to rehabilitate the criminal back into the community with assistance, and guidance so they do not revert back into the situation that got them into prison in the first place.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust believes this is necessary, and is fully supportive, but only AFTER they have served their Judge given sentence.
At present an inmate is eligible to apply for release after serving only one third of their sentence. With re-offending rates so high, we believe criminals are being released back into our communities before being given enough time to rehabilitate.
They are being released early for economic reasons - to empty out our prisons. It costs too much to keep them inside, and we do not have the facilities to retain them all. The Sensible Sentencing Trust, believes that it will be more cost effective in the long term, to keep them in prison.
Consider the overall cost to Society of each and every crime. Police time, court costs, legal aid. Many crimes are committed by people on welfare benefits. Also consider victim's costs - hospital expenses, loss of earnings, ACC, insurances etc and this does not even touch on the human cost.
Take the case of William Bell for instance - killer of THREE RSA workers. He had over 100 previous offences and had been released on parole partway through a 5 year sentence for aggravated robbery. If he had served his full sentence 3 innocent people would be alive today, not to mention Susan Couch the fourth victim whose life will never be the same. Our Justice system has a role to play in these and many other murders.
Sexual predator Barry Ryder was released on parole after serving 7 and a half years of a 9 year sentence for kidnap and attempted violation of an 11 year old boy at knifepoint. He was released only to re-offend and prey on 4 more school children. His parole regime which initially included a 24 hour watch, cost the taxpayer $266,200 over a 15 month period. It costs over $63,000 per annum to keep a prisoner in jail.
How cost effective was that exercise?
Politicians claim the cost of keeping criminals in for their full sentence is too costly.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust say the cost of letting them out on parole is far greater.
It's about time our politicians listened to New Zealanders!
The only way to true democracy and to give voters a voice is to make referendums BINDING on the Government
Remember we wanted only 99(and PM) M.P.'s and tougher prison sentencing!
But nothing's been done about it! Is that true democracy? We don't think so! Referendums work well in Europe and they can work here too.
Visit website www.votersvoice.org.nz to register your support and sign the petition now!
On the 19th March 2003, SST appeared before the Law and Order Select Committee at Parliament to present our submission regarding the Trusts' views on the Criminal investigations (Bodily Samples) Bill before Parliament. We were supported by Kelly Piggott, Teresa Cormack's mother and her views will be published in our next newsletter. We were given one hours presentation time and received a warm response. SST advocates the necessity for a comprehensive Police DNA Data Bank. The following is an extract only from our submission:
If DNA had been taken from Jules Mikus, at the time of his first and subsequent offences 6 year old Teresa Cormack would be alive today. Repeat offenders, like Mikus, who had over 60 previous convictions would be removed from society at a much earlier stage. SST believe, that not only would DNA testing prove guilt, it would also prove innocence. We have the recent case where Dougherty was convicted in 1993 for the rape of a west Auckland girl. He spent over 3 years in jail and was proven innocent and freed at retrial in 1997 after a jury accepted new DNA evidence.
DNA is simply improving and broadening our knowledge base. It is not some invasion of our human rights, as Civil Liberties organisations would have us believe. The REAL invasion of our human rights has occurred over the last 30 years with the escalation of crime. SST believes that society has a right to expect a certain standard of behaviour from all of its members, all of the time. After all, the real victims of crime are you and I, as Society declines you and I pay.
Taken ex www.stuff.co.nz.
A victims' rights group has attacked Government proposals to expand legal aid, describing the scheme as a "gravy train" responsible for escalating crime rates. Justice Minister, Roskill MP Phil Goff, says legal aid eligibility is being reviewed to ensure access for those with a genuine need. Particular emphasis is on making legal aid more available by allowing people to earn more and still claim.
"As part of the review, the Minister of Justice, has developed preliminary proposals looking at ways of expanding the pool of financially eligible people, how to clarify the merits test and how to support alternative dispute resolution," Mr Goff says.
But SST national spokesman Garth McVicar says criminals who repeatedly offend should become ineligible for legal assistance from the state. The Trust is drafting a submission to make crime victims' views clear to the Government, Mr McVicar says.
Sensible Sentencing representatives met Mr Goff on 27th Feb to promote it's "sliding scale" legal aid concept.
First offenders would be eligible, but any further offending would trigger the "sliding scale" and withdraw eligibility.
"In its first year of introduction, legal aid cost the taxpayer $110,000. Last year, the budgeted figure for legal aid was $100 million," Mr McVicar says. "While the legislation was introduced in 1970 with the best of intentions, it is now being abused by more than just the criminals. We believe that the abuse of the legal aid gravy train is now a major factor in the escalating crime rates in this country. It does not encourage individual accountability and is actually aiding and abetting the career criminaL"
Mx McVicar, says the "politically correct" move to expand the pool of financially eligible people still leaves the door ajar for "open slather abuse".
"Obviously our 'community minded' defence lawyers would still defend the ineligible career criminals for free, as they tell us it is not about the money, simply to ensure justice is done" Mr McVicar says.
Mr Goff says the review also examines concerns that too much legal aid money is spent on long or complex cases, and that access to legal aid creates an incentive for people to extend cases unnecessarily, particularly in Family Court. "Reviewing the legal aid system is important because it plays a fundamental part in ensuring NZ'ers have access to legal representation in genuine cases of need". Decisions about reforms to eligibility (2nd stage) should be made by end of the year.
The new $132.8 million Ngawha Prison being built will have cells with a view, security areas will be separated by gardens and a stream running through the site.
Prisoners will be able to play rugby on a full-sized field, be entertained in a natural outdoor amphitheatre and work out in a $l.2 million Gym. A whare hui in one building could host cultural events. The prison's project director John Hamilton has been reported as saying.... "None of this is about enjoying oneself. Everything we do has that one aim - stopping the person coming back to prison"....
Inmates have committed crimes against society and imprisonment is supposed to punish and prevent them from reoffending. Our present re-offending rate stands at: female 75 percent - male 83 percent and youth 97 percent. We have to wonder with such facilities, if Parliament is aiming for 100 percent. We also wonder what prisons were like in the 1950's and 1960's when re-offending was about 12 percent.
Prisoners built their muscles by breaking rocks, rather than in $1.2 million Gyms. But, as Hamilton says, "we are not trying to make a repressive atmosphere. People's punishment is being in the prison They are not punished while in prison"
The Sensible Sentencing Trust asks why then is society being punished? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the same consideration was given to their victims, who were punished for going about their daily lives and contributing to making a decent society.
Wouldn't it be nice for the inmates victims also not to live in an emotional repressive atmosphere. Many of their victims could not afford the joining fee to a $1.2 million gym, as they are too busy keeping their families together, and trying to put food on their table, to have the luxury of playing sport!
When the word "punishment" is mentioned the P.C. brigade start screaming "offenders rights"!! "Human rights"! We believe human rights are for human beings. Some of the crimes these vermin commit are beyond "human".
What about the rights of the law abiding citizen? The right to go about their daily lives without their rights being infringed by some thug. Offender's rights are being put first at the expense of the law abiding citizen.
S.S.T. believe if you break the rules of a decent society then you forfeit your rights.
You should certainly not be given free membership to an elite Country Club called "Ngawha".
NOTE : We welcome your comments - Editor
Thank you for your response. It is letters like these and your support that encourage us to keep fighting for Justice Reform. We know the problems are enormous, and it is not going to be an easy "battle", but as long as we have the support of our members and the wider community we will continue to "chip away at the iceberg".
Our society is encumbered by a justice system that does not mean what it says. As such, it is doomed to failure with the price being met by the law abiding. It is ludicrous beyond belief that crime offers rewards for perpetrators, and penalties for the victim of enormous proportion. Long, soft arm chair ride sentencing is a well proven failure. Delete maximum penalty and replace it with minimum. Make jails a place offenders would never like to return to. Make sentences short, and sharp. Going on penalising the taxpayer for lengthy go nowhere sentences is a mockery beyond belief that must end.
B Anderson, Tauraunga.
I am strongly against property owners being brought to court in prosecution procedures, because they've taken steps to protect their own property and themselves. Intruders on private property, intent on criminal acts, should have no rights at all. It seems that, as with the dog situation, the law says, "Wait until the dog attacks and bites you then you have the right to complain."
B. Steyn. Woodville.
That was a good item in your newsletter titled, "Deaf Ears". I would like to comment on one omission. In the article the Judge's name wasn't mentioned. It should have been, in bold print. He is accountable for his actions, just like anybody else, the ramifications of his stupid decision to go "softly softly" on Hotene, went hand in hand with the resultant senseless killing of Kylie Jones. All Judges have a job to do This Judge made a fatalistic error of judgment.. How can he be accountable, if his name isn't mentioned in your article?
A. Wilson, Auckland.
The sentence of 28 years imposed on Bruce Howse for his ghastly murder of those two little girls horrified me. This most degenerate low-life will enjoy three good meals a day, free medical and dental care, TV and other perks and will not be put to hard labour. His accommodation will cost the taxpayers around $75,000 a year. One convicted killer escaped from Paremoremo prison while playing squash. The political party which will guarantee us a binding referendum on the restoration of capital punishment for murderers convicted on other than circumstantial evidence (eg as Arthur Allan Thomas was) will be assured of enormous support. The present Government would never permit us to exercise such a democratic right. It prefers to ruin our landscapes by building more costly and ugly prisons to safely house vile criminals like Howse.
Athol L Bishop. Hamilton.
As a student at secondary school in Australia in the 1960's, the book "For The Term Of His Natural Life" was required to be read and absorbed for our School Certificate examination. It was compelling reading, and from distant memory, the author told the story of a man in England sentenced to the convict settlement of New South Wales "for the term of his natural life", simply for stealing a loaf of bread.
How unjust was that sentence? Yet, in our modern society today, we can say that the sentencing of people does not reflect the seriousness of the crime and is also unjust.
On December 3rd 2001, our family was shattered when our beloved daughter was murdered. The offender, a man on parole for (only) two months killed her. He also held a gun on the man in a vehicle with his two sons, who was brave enough to stop to help her.
His sentence was life imprisonment for both crimes with a minimum parole sentence of 17 years. Whilst this reflects the level of sentences currently being given in New Zealand, a sentence "for the term of his natural life" in my view, would be far more appropriate. I endorse the views of the Sensible Sentencing Trust that "life should mean life"
The offender's attack was vicious. He showed no remorse. He had already been given a chance by the Justice System, and I worry that if ever released again, some other person or family will be at risk.
At some point in time this man will be due for release and by then I will (if still around) be rather old and may not have either the strength or the health to fight a battle to stop him from being released into society. Since his sentencing, I am aware of other people being released, but I only have a minimum knowledge of the role and power of the Parole Boards.
I would appreciate if someone with a sound knowledge of our legal system would contribute to your newsletter, by letting myself and others who may be in the same position know the answers to the following :
The scout motto of "Be Prepared" is what I have in mind. If anyone could assist by providing detail on the role of the N.Z. Parole Board, it would very much be appreciated.
From : John Hargreaves.
Questions asked by John Hargreaves in the above letter answered
What rights as a family do we have to debate any suggestion of parole?
If you have not already, you should apply to be placed on the Victims' Nohflcation Register, which is provided for under the Victims' Rights Act. The police officer who dealt with your daughter's case or the Court Victim Adviser at your local Court should be able to help you get on the Register. Once on the Register, you will automatically be notified of any upcoming parole hearings regarding your daughter's murderer. At such a hearing, you have the right to make written or oral submissions to the Parole Board, which they must take into account before making any parole decisions regarding Hoko.
Who comprises the Parole Board and what are their powers?
Current members of the Parole Board are:
Hon A A TELLIS (Chairperson), Judge A DEOBHAXTA, Judge B R L LOVEGROVE, Judge B J KENDALL, Judge D J L SAUNDERS, Judge E W UNWIN, Judge JHLO VELL-SMITH, Judge J E MACDONALD, Judge J R CALLANDER, Judge J W DALMER, Judge M A CROSBIE, Judge P J TOOMEY, Judge R M KEAN, Judge R L WATSON, Judge R J JOHNSON, Mr J THOMSON, M M HAKIAHA, Mr R J WILSON, Mr S F THOMSEN, Mrs G D T DORSETT, Mrs T M J JACKSON, Ms A D TIMMS, Ms J M DONALDSON, Ms L M NATHAN, Ms R F GRENFELL, Ms S L GILL, Ms W BALL
NOTE :The above members have contracts with varying expiry dates for their present term on the Parole Board.
The Board sits in panels of at least 3 members. They have the power to grant or refuse release on parole and to set conditions on parole. They also have the power to grant applications for a sentence of imprisonment of 2 years or less to be served on home detention, or for the last 3 months before the offender's parole eligibility date for sentences of more than 2 years. The Board also has the power to defer the length of time between parole hearings (which are usually held annually) for up to 2 years for those serving finite sentences, and up to 3 years for those serving indefinite sentences (such as a life sentence for murder). One of the reasons for this is to reduce the trauma to victims of repeated parole hearings.
Can they release a person earlier than the time stated by the Judge, or are they bound by the Judges decision?
Section 41 of the Parole Act 2002, provides that the Board may release an offender before the parole eligibility date set down in statute or specified by the Judge only on "compassionate grounds", which are defined as having given birth to a child or being so unwell that they are unlikely to recover. Note that giving birth does not automatically lead to release: many children born while their mother is in prison are brought up by other family members, while the mother continues to serve her sentence.
Can the decision of a Parole Board be legally challenged in a Court?
A victim or the Police may apply for judicial review of a decision of the Board to release an offender on parole. The application would generally be made to the High Court
Does a Parole Board come under any legislation?
Yes, the Parole Act 2002 sets out the law relating to the release from detention of offenders serving sentences of imprisonment. The Act also establishes the Parole Board and its functions.
The Ministry of Justice website is www.justice.govt.nz. This site contains further information about both the Sentencing Act and the Parole Act and the rights of victims.
The above questions were submitted to the Office of Minister of Justice Mr Phil GOFF and to the N.Z. Parole Board for answers. We are extremely grateful to both Mr Phil Goff and the Parole Board for their replies.
The Board of Sensible Sentencing
We would like to thank all those members who wrote to the Parole Board and also our South Island members who supported Bevan and Dawn Smith at the parole hearing objecting to the release of Paul Bailey, killer of their 16 year old daughter Kylie. The Parole Board declined his application. In an unprecedented move they allowed members of S.S.T. to speak and also deferred his Parole hearing for 3 years. They are usually every 12 months.
Under the new Sentencing & Parole Act the Parole Board now has the power to defer a parole application for up to 3 years. S.S.T. hopes they will exercise this authority in all such cases. This was an enormous relief for Bevan and Dawn as they now have 3 years free from the trauma of Parole. They are most grateful for all your support and thank everyone involved.
ABUSE OF POWER
A representative from the Parole Board, told Rita Croskery, mother of Michael Choy, murdered by a group of youths while delivering Pizzas, that she was not allowed to attend one of the offenders parole hearings without the offender's consent !!!!! The reason being the offender may feel intimidated. The female offender, Casie Rawin, who robbed Michael while he lay injured, was eligible for parole after serving only 6 months of her two and a half years sentence.
Rita, who is also the Sensible Sentencing Trust's "National Ambassador for Victims", had to fight very hard to exercise her rights - as a victim - and was eventually allowed to attend the hearing, held in Christchurch Women's Prison. How many more victims are being fobbed-off and fed incorrect information which they accept as true. Very few victims, would have Rita's strength and tenacity to question the system. Casie Rawin was denied parole. The Sensible Sentencing Trust believes this was only due to Rita's perseverance and her presentation at the Parole hearing.
Why should innocent victims have to go to such lengths to keep violent criminals off our streets.
It takes guts to start on organization like S.S.T.
It takes spirit to keep it going.
It fakes commitment to stay focused on our mission.
It takes determination to overcome the knocks.
It fakes heart to understand the problems.
It takes love to be there for our victims.
The Trust has not survived on these emotions alone; it also takes money. Thanks to the continued financial support we receive from our members we have been able to accomplish the amazing results you have read about. After our last newsletter we received many financial contributions and I would like to thank all of those who were able to give a donation. You our members, keep this fight alive with the emotional and financial support you continue to give, and we are so very grateful. For further donations please post to:
PC Box 701 Napier. or call 0900 723369. (SAFE NZ.)
Information wanted by our webmaster
I would like information on the following offenders please:
NOTE : Anything in way of media references, newspaper cuttings much appreciated.
If anyone took photos of our Auckland March in July 2002 or any of our other public meetings, then Peter would love copies for our Website. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter would like to encourage all members to put a bumper sticker on their car, particularly in Auckland. Due to the fact there are many traffic hold ups and people do notice. He also has a larger version available. If you would like one, please email him email@example.com
Finally, Peter would like any good examples where an offenders rights were put before those of a victim during a trial.
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