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Big News: When Will The Killings End?

Big News with Dave Crampton

When Will The Killings End?

The recent sentencing of 17-year-old Daniel Luff for the murder of one police officer with a stolen gun and attempted murder of another while on bail on firearms charges is concerning enough without learning his self-indulgent mother was a drug addict, and in and out of prison for drug abuse. Luff never knew his drug addicted father, who left shortly after his son was born.

He may have not even known that he spent the past 10 weeks in the same prison as his dad, who is doing time for petty crime. Its probably the closest he has been to his dad for 17 years.

It was a culmination of a pretty bad few days: On Sunday a teenager allegedly killed Tanya Burr in Rotorua, and on Monday six teenagers were imprisoned for killing Michel Choy – two of them brothers. The following day the teenager suspected of Burr’s murder was formally charged. On Wednesday Daniel Luff was given 17 years before being eligible for parole thanks to the new sentencing and parole legislation which provides 17 years non parole for the worst crimes. Last week 14-year-old Kararaina Te Rauna was given 8 years and 9 months jail for the manslaughter of Kenneth Pigott, and last month Ese Junior Falealii, 18, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of pizza deliverer Marcus Doig and bank worker John Vaughan. In just over a month 10 teenagers have been put behind bars for murder or manslaughter with three more yet to be sentenced. Incidentally, all but one, possibly two, were either Maori or Samoan and raised by dysfunctional families. Imagine the difference two good parents would have made in the lives of these kids.

Nobody, not even Steve Maharey, will now say solo parent families are “doing ok” and two parent families are history. In the case of Daniel Luff, it was the family of his former girlfriend that provided the security that was missing with his own mother. When his relationship split, so did the secure environment he felt welcome in. Now he’s living in a very secure environment – but not the kind he was looking for.

It’s no secret that this country’s youngest convicted killer, 13-year-old BJ Kurariki, will be eligible for parole in less then 18 months. The current sentencing laws water sentences down and water parole laws down even further. But now a judge legally has to give written reasons for sentencing murderers to a sentence less than life, when previously those charged with murder received mandatory life sentences. Kurariki’s mother was among the 20 percent of Maori women who have the responsibility of being a solo parent – and most likely on an income less than $20,000. Kurariki could be free to commence his correspondence schooling before he is 15 - unless a school is willing to take him. He may be released as he is not a threat to the community, but if he is not rehabilitated, he will still able deemed one of the 60 percent of those registered with the correspondence school that are deemed to be “at risk” – which is why many are registered with the school in the first place.

If such kids had functional families who cared about their kids in the first place, most of these teenagers would be attending school and getting an education like anybody else. It is not known how many of those in dysfunctional families are encouraging at risk kids to complete their schooling. Kurariki’s mother is relieved of her 13-year-year old for at least 18 months – but when her son is eligible for parole the whole saga will resurface… affecting families of the victims and the accused – or what’s left of them.

Michael Choy’s mother Rita Croskery intends to attend every parole board hearing. All offenders will have the right to stay throughout any parole hearing, and to get the full reasoning for a decision. Victims such as Mrs Croskery can only present their submissions, they do not get a copy of any Parole Board decision. They will be told about conditions only to the extent the Parole Board thinks they are relevant to the victim. Any prisoner will get a copy of the decision irregardless. Is that justice? You decide. If prisoners are not rehabilitated, but are not deemed to be a threat to the safety of the community – they are released. Yet there is no definition of the term “safety of the community” in our parole laws.

Surely the Government, who claim to be so family friendly, should be concerned for the rights of families who have lost loved ones to kid killers, most from dysfunctional families. At the very least they should be allowed to attend court to see the murderer of their relative or offspring. Functional families and good parenting should be promoted rather than passing laws that make it easier for solo parents to remain on welfare for longer.

Former Police officer Duncan Taylor’s wife is now a solo mum with a one month old baby. Two parent families – or at least functional families, should be promoted above all else. At the end of the day, we all want kids to stop killing. Rehabilitation, perhaps within sentencing, may achieve that for current prisoners – but what will be achieved in 18 months for a 13 year old? Will Kurariki reoffend while on parole? Will there be measures to prevent others from killing?

Only time will tell.

- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at davec@globe.net.nz

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