This morning's press is again full of crime stories, two screaming out with messages of what's so wrong with our justice system and our government's pathetically soft approach to crime that borders on condoning the actions of criminals. The first is from the NZ Herald.
NZ Herald: “Teen’s car stealing spree in Nelson leaves vehicles with huge damage and owners with big bills”
“A teen who went on a 48-hour car stealing spree told police he could “do what he liked” now that he was an adult.
“But the court disagreed… Pomare Pui, 18, was sentenced this week in the Nelson District Court to 12 months of intensive supervision with judicial monitoring after earlier admitting six charges of unlawfully taking vehicles.”
The Judge spoke to Mr Pui “sternly” and pointed out to that his criminal actions reflected a “total lack of empathy or maturity”.
I am sure Mr Pui would have taken that message on board!
Clearly Mr Pui, a drunk drug-taking 18-year-old, is smarter than the well-educated presumably sober judge. Mr Pui is quite right when he says he could do what he liked – as the pathetic sentence of supervision handed down by the learned judge proves.
“Judge Ruth accepted and acknowledged comments made by defence lawyer Michael Vesty, that Pui’s crimes pointed to the impulsiveness and lack of full intellectual development which sometimes accompanied the actions of young people.”
So being an 18-year-old young person is now a mitigating factor in sentencing.
Once upon a time when the justice system was at least semi-conscious in this country, the courts applied the principle Ignorantia juris non excusat (meaning, “ignorance of the law excuses not”).
Nowadays being young and ignorant is a defence! – even when that young person happens to be 18 and an adult in the eyes of the law.
The Greens, of course, want to lower the voting age to 16 – presumably, they believe they have great appeal to those who “lack full intellectual development”, which arguably is the constituency they already attract.
So Mr Pui will be monitored over the next 12 months to make sure he has taken on board the stern message from the learned judge and turned his life around to become an upstanding law-abiding citizen. How delusional is that?
The second article is from Stuff.
Stuff: Trio who shot-up house in gangland revenge plot spared jail
“Three of the men involved in the shooting up of a Tawa house in retaliation to an earlier shooting in Wellington’s CBD have been sentenced – and no-one has gone to jail.
“The five men got into a white stationwagon, with a loaded pistol and sawn off shotgun, the morning after on April 23, last year.
“The pistol was fired six times at the house, going through the walls, or through a window into the ceiling. An occupant was narrowly missed.
“The judge gave a 22-year-old man a discharge without conviction and said he had worked for it, doing counselling. He had pleaded guilty to possessing both weapons.
“A 27-year-old and 28-year-old were both given home detention – of 10 months and 11 months.
“Both had pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a pistol and shotgun and reckless discharge of the pistol.
“The police considered the 22-year-old was a passenger in the car and the other two were who police considered responsible for the shooting, the judge said.
“The judge granted permanent name suppression for all three, saying publicity would undermine the good work they had done for rehabilitation and getting their lives on track.”
So gang members use illegal firearms to shoot up a house in a residential area. But that's OK because they were upset and drunk, and have attended some “counselling” – presumably, they were required to watch the 2003 movie Anger Management starring Jack Nicholson who… ok, you have probably seen it too.
They are probably going to the same counselling sessions as Mr Pui from Nelson – no doubt there is much Mr Pui could learn from the gang members in Wellington.
Crim’s must think our justice system is foolish – and they would not be wrong about that.
The sentences being handed down by our judges are woefully out of touch. It is our justice system that should be placed on trial for the public to judge.
The only mitigating factor in defence of our judges would be that they are giving effect to the law, and that is true to a degree. If the law opens up a path for judges who fool themselves into thinking crime without consequences is a path to rehabilitation, then it is the law that needs to be changed so the public is protected from naïve judges, 18-year-olds who “lack full intellectual development”, and pissed and angry gang members wanting a bit of utu.
Frank Newman is a director of the NZCPR, a political commentator and investment analyst, and a former local body councillor.