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escalating violence in our community
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Sensible Sentencing Trust
William Bell while out on parole killed three people and very seriously injured a fourth in the course of an armed robbery of the Mount Wellington RSA. He had already breached his parole conditions several times. Over worked probation service staff had failed to keep tabs on him.
Mary Hobson was one of the three victims killed that morning in cold blood by Bell. Her husband, Tai Hobson, is taking a case for compensation against the probation service (partly because of the crazy and disastrous old law that required Bell to be automatically released at two thirds of his sentence in the first place (as he was sentenced under the Criminal Justice 1985 at the time) sadly leaving the parole/prison boards and jailers with absolutely no discretion over his early release at the time.
Sensible Sentencing Trust is providing assistance and support to Tai Hobson in this case, as if it is successful could set a very valuable precedent for future victims wishing to sue Government departments for failing to protect the public from offenders such as Bell.
We are also assisting Susan Couch, another of the RSA victims in her attempt to sue the Corrections Department for damages as a consequence of the serious injuries she suffered at the hands of Bell. Herald story here.She has been left destitute as a result of these injuries.
Tai Hobson's case has been lost unfortunately, with the courts having decided that there is no legal obligation to compensate Tai Hobson for his loss or even to formally apologise! Tai has now applied for an ex-gratia payment from the Government (which should be accompanied by an apology if those concerned have a shred of decency).
Tai Hobson has written the following letter to Cabinet Ministers as part of that application;
"I am writing this letter (at 4:15 am) because I want you to know how I feel inside. People say to get on with life (which I try to do) but they don't know what's bottled up inside me.
As you probably know, with the help of some lawyers who were willing to take my case on without charging me, I tried to sue the Government over what happened to Mary. I do not know much about the legal side but I understand that we have now reached the end of the road legally speaking, and I have nowhere else to go.
What confuses me more is that my lawyers have explained to me that some of the judges who have considered my case have said they are very sorry about what happened, and the Department of Corrections made very serious errors which allowed William Bell to be in a position to kill Mary.
I have even read on one of the papers that the lawyer for the Government also told the High Court that the Department must take a large amount of responsibility for what happened. Despite all those things being said, at the end of the day it feels like there is no justice for me.
When I'm alone in my room, I reminisce about what happened five years ago and I sometimes cry from the sadness of it all. That is not an easy thing for me to say or write, but it is true.
I feel I suffer deep personal distress all the time, but the system says that it is just too bad. I can't really see an end to this because the feelings I have are always with me.
I say to myself why is there not some kind of compensation for the trauma I go through? It is particularly hard for me every time I read of some prisoner who has had a roughing up in jail or just deprived of his rights getting paid a large sum of money to compensate him. What about me? They are in jail because they have hurt people. I have done nothing to anyone.
I have talked to my lawyers and they have told me about something called an ex gratia payment. I understand that it is my last hope for any recognition in money terms for what happened to me and my family. Although the first judge at the High Court said he was very sorry for what had happened, no one in the Government has even said sorry, even though your own lawyers told the court that very serious errors were made and that the Department must take a real measure of responsibility for that.
I respectfully ask that you consider making an ex gratia payment to me, and a formal apology. Maybe then I can put Mary's death behind me and try to get on with the rest of my life."
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