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Mercy For A Mistake, Or Mercy For Money?

Mercy For A Mistake, Or Mercy For Money?

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today demanded to know why Ding Yan Zhao - whose reckless driving killed an innocent child - had his sentence cut to an effective six months, with permission to apply for home detention.

"Did it have anything to do with his family offering $40,000 to a kindergarten, or was the Court trying to draw a distinction between deliberate crime, conscious wrongdoing, and reckless stupidity?" Mr Franks asked.

"If it were to ensure that the usual puny sentences for deliberate evil do not appear too feeble against similar sentences for stupid mistakes, then it might be supportable in principle.

"Even if we think six months is too little for an unlicensed speeding driver who kills a child, the principle may be okay - though it is hard to understand when compared with recent sentences for momentary carelessness by deeply remorseful hunters who have unintentionally shot other hunters.

"But if the Court decided it must make the sentence pitiful because Justice Minister Phil Goff's new Sentencing Act tells judges they must take account of compensation offers, then it is another reason why that Sentencing Act should be at the top of the list for redrafting.

"There should be a big difference between acts with deliberate criminal intent, and foolish mistakes. In both cases, however, there should be a genuine price for the offence.

"When the new law automatically halves all sentences under two years, there should be few cases where an appeal will cut the original sentence in half again. Was this court offering mercy for a mistake, or mercy for money?" Mr Franks asked.

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