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David Miller: Its Time For Tougher Sentencing

David Miller Online

Its Time For Tougher Sentencing

Although I have never regarded myself as an ACT supporter, this week I find myself agreeing with Richard Prebble that the 17-year prison sentence handed down to Ese Junior Falelaii for double murder was a disgrace. Both these crimes were callous and vicious and what is most disturbing of all is that they were pre-mediated. Whatever way you look at these murders there is no doubt that Falealii’s main intention was to kill and this was demonstrated in the manner in which he executed his victims. This case should have been a call to political parties to stop all the trivia over paintings and the circumstances in which corn was grown during the election campaign and focus on the real issues such as a legal process that has once again failed to deliver justice.

Mr Prebble is of the opinion that Falealii got away with one murder “scot-free”. He has taken aim at the government’s new Sentencing Act under which offenders who are convicted serve their sentences concurrently. Mr Prebble argues that under this system, Falealii, who should be serving two sentences is actually only serving one, and this means that, “you can do two crimes and get the second for free”.

The call for tougher sentencing for violent offenders has been heard around New Zealand for a number of years now. There have been petitions presented to parliament, the emergence of lobby groups campaigning on this matter and a public outcry each time a violent incident appears in the media. Yet nothing seems to happen. One could argue that Falealii was sentenced for each of his crimes separately yet by serving them on a concurrent basis the impact of his punishment is severely limited. In this case a murderer will be back on the streets in time for his fortieth birthday.

One point of view that I came across was that the imposition of longer sentences would be a deterrent for other criminals both in the present and in the future. Such a view stems from the idea that New Zealand must adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to crime and those who commit it as has happened in New York. The idea here is that a clear message would be sent to those who chose crime and violence as a path forward in their lives and if they are aware that such actions could carry a longer incarceration time they might reconsider their intentions.

There is merit in this argument but I question whether it would be applicable in the case of someone like Falealii who was described in a psychiatric report as being grossly below average in intelligence. Would such a person even give the slightest of thought or concern to the prospect of spending a great deal of his life in prison when committing such crimes? I think not. The issue here is that Falealii wanted to kill. He was engaged in robbery and drugs were said to be a factor but his actions demonstrate that he wanted to kill above all else. He wanted the notoriety and held some deluded idea that this would make him famous if he committed such acts. It was for this reason that he killed his two victims execution style after they had obeyed his orders to lie on the floor and tried to kill others present in the room.

Ese Junior Falealii and others like him serve no useful role in New Zealand society and as a result have forfeited their right to be part of it. New Zealanders deserve to be protected from people like Falealii and by sentencing him to 17-years they have not been given that protection. It is easy to blame a troubled upbringing for Falealii’s actions or his drug habits but the answer really lies in the fact that he is a vicious killer who is not sorry for what he did or in any way repentant. Perhaps politicians and other headline grabbers should but aside the trivia over ‘Painter-gate’ and the debacle over GE and the corn and focus on the serious issues and put in place some proper sentencing laws. It is time that those who take lives and ruin others pay for those acts by spending their own lives behind bars.

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