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True Justice Must Recognise Mark Middleton’s Cause

Friday 16th Feb 2001 Stephen Franks Speech -- Justice

True justice must recognise Mark Middleton’s cause.

Good morning law-abiding fellow New Zealanders. And thank you Garth McVicar and the other true leaders here, for inviting us all and for inviting me to speak.

I am proud to be here. Proud to be with people who are prepared to stand up and say when enough is enough. Proud to do more than just stare helplessly at the television news as another smirking robber, rapist or murderer is hurried out of sight into the government care.

I have three points to make today. Three points to those who will be listening and watching us. And one request and recommendation to you. One thing we must do if Mark Middleton’s sacrifice is not to be wasted.

First, I believe in the rule of law, I accept that Mark Middleton had to be charged, convicted and sentenced. Pity the jury. They had to convict Mark Middleton, because they respect the rule of law. And we are here to support Mark Middleton’s cause because we believe in the rule of law. We uphold respect for the law.

Mark’s stand would have meant little if he had not risked punishment. If nothing happens when people deliberately break the law, it is no longer the law. The power of protest lies in Mark’s choice to sacrifice. We judge the strength of feeling by the willingness to suffer punishment for the greater cause.

My second point matters more. True justice must recognise Mark Middleton’s cause. His threats were what our government used to say to vile criminals. He made them because now the Government won’t even do what it says it will do.

The Government says life imprisonment when it means about 12% of life. It makes its judges lie knowingly, every time they give a sentence. Virtually none are ever served.

If it was only true justice for his family he wanted, Mark could have planned it secretly. So many brutally wronged parents, brothers and sisters must have vowed to do that since the State started putting the so called needs of the offender ahead of justice. For most, of course, time erodes them until their pride is broken like their hearts.

But not for Mark. His threats were really a cry for the Government to do its duty, so citizens didn’t feel they had to. To make sure crime doesn’t pay, that the innocent will be protected, that evil deeds are paid for. His threats were patently aimed at the conscience of the State. The threats were a form of notice to the State of what it invites if it keeps breaking its side of the bargain.

We understand why Mark did what he did – to highlight the disgrace of our criminal justice system – and he did so knowing he would suffer for breaking the law.

We have a government which tells criminals that “whatever you do we will never let the victim do the same to you. You must leave it to us” says this government.

But nothing is foul enough now to persuade this government to balance the account on behalf of the victim. Any vileness is effectively excused when all that balances it is 10, or 12, or at most 18 years of good food and polite concern in government care.

Did you know that the average paroled prisoner is out after serving less than 45% of his sentence? My third point is this. Mark Middleton should not have been alone in the dock. The politicians and judges and the ‘-ologists’ of every kind who gave us 10 year life imprisonment should be there too.

They should be held to account for a murder every six weeks, or the rape every week by a criminal released before the end of the Court’s sentence. This political elite should be accountable for shattering children’s sense of security and trust in the people around them. More than two thousand criminals are released each year after serving less than half their sentence.

It is the architects of these policies who should be in the dock. The politicians who inflict these policies on us.

And they are still sneering at the common-sense of 90% of New Zealanders long after it has become plain their policies do not work.

I say to all of you justice is in our hands. We need not take the law into our own hands. We won’t urge mob justice. We have what our forbears gave us in place of mob rule. It is voting democracy.

New Zealanders can hold those responsible to account. We can chuck out representatives who scoff, out of voters’ sight. All it takes is the care to identify them. The care to sort out the difference between election slogans and fine talk, and action.

It means remembering who voted to throw out ACT’s Truth in Sentencing Bill. A Bill which they painted as extreme just because it would have made prisoners serve at least 80% of their sentences.

What can you do? Here is my recommendation, and I am not saying you must join ACT or support particular politicians. But this is a political problem.

I have to ask you to take politics seriously. It means resolving to vote. Take part in elections. Don’t let them play you for fools. They think in two or three weeks we will lose our outrage. They rely on us not to join political parties. They can snigger in their caucuses, counting on you to be disorganised.

I am saying you must stop supporting two faced politicians. Do join VOICE represented by Greg Stenbeck and his colleagues here. Justice will never be done for Kylie Jones’ rape and murder last year. But if you organise you will honour Mark Middleton. VOICE will be monitoring the performance of all parties.

Finally, the real guilty parties get their self satisfaction, their smugness, from excusing criminals. But forgiveness is not theirs to exercise. It is not theirs to give. Forgiveness is the right of victims. These politicians have stolen the victims’ right to see justice is done. They take the victim’s right to retribution and mock it.

True justice for Mark Middleton’s cause is available to all of you.

At the ballot box,

Vote the weak politicians OUT.


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