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Justice may not change hearts...

Marc My Words. - 8 April 04

Justice may not change hearts.. but it restrains the actions of the heartless.

I apologise in advance for the tenor of this week's commentary. It is a heartfelt reaction to yet another act of violence perpetrated on a lady who should have been enjoying her place as an elder in our society. I am redolent with anger and frustration. My anger stems from losing heart over seeing the trampling of a person's right to safety, while my frustration is aimed at the certainty that we have been down this path too many times before. Upon advice, this column has been greatly toned down from how I truly feel.

This week I despaired of humanity. The man who pushed eighty five year old Anja Pootjes-Knuppe to the ground from her walking-frame, at one fell swoop pushed aside any claim to be worthy of our consideration as a fellow member of civil society. He must be hunted down and hung out for the public shame he richly deserves.

While all violent acts warrant our unreserved condemnation, this barbaric assault goes against all it means to be a responsible member of our community.

This allegedly "tall, tidily dressed, part-Maori or Polynesian offender" robbed the elderly woman of a handbag with travellers cheques and euros worth $7,000 (destined as a gift for her grandchildren) with such extreme violence and disdain for the sanctity of life that she was so battered and bruised that sadly, she died within a week.

This blight on humanity picked on a vulnerable and venerable elder. It is hard to imagine much worse.

That Anja died of heart disease does not mitigate one jot from the culpability of that apology of manhood who undoubtedly facilitated an all too violent and unnecessary death.

My fervent hope is that this offender be found, be charged with homicide (and other appropriate charges), and be placed under the glare of public spotlight as the epitome of all that is repugnant in a society that purports to be caring and compassionate. Because it is only when we realise the rights of others that we begin to have true justice.

I would not be at all surprised that when this despicable person is apprehended he will have a string of convictions behind him, having taken used up all his second and third chances. The sad reality is that many like him are on a trajectory of evil aided and abetted by a justice system that refuses to mete out a just and timelysentence that deters. Anja's attacker is undoubtedly past the point of return.

In prison he will be fed and watered, then subjected to a battery of self-awareness courses to make him feel better about himself. None of this will work, for the simple reason that it's 'way too late. This sad fact illustrates an incredible lack of resources that need to be focussed on early intervention; getting to the cause of the problem before it becomes one.

In Christchurch we are fortunate to have a range of agencies tackling this problem such as Project Early and the Family Help Trust. Regrettably they are all too under funded and the net is not wide enough to capture all the families in need of the help they offer.

But the rule of law will never achieve what it sets out to do unless it floats in a sea of ethics and has the sentiment of the people behind it. This malicious act demands that society respond with one clear voice: such wanton acts can never be tolerated.

Regrettably, in an age of politically correct relativism, our ethical unanimity can no longer be taken for granted. Rather, it is taken hostage.

No doubt there will be the usual jaw-dropping apologists who will defend this offender on the grounds of a background of adversity (despite his getaway car being a red BMW). They will whine about his drug and alcohol problems; wax lyrical about his dysfunctional family; and sing eloquently of social/ethnic/economic privation. But behavioural apologists are everywhere. They spring up like mushrooms around every abhorrent exercise of choice that stains our civility - seeing offenders as victims and relegating the innocent to the statistics dustbin.

Let us as a community stand firm and not allow ourselves to fall under the tyranny of this pervasive and evil myth. We should never succumb to the temptation of excusing the inexcusable - or waste time seeking redemption in those who choose to act irredeemably, and accord them a consideration they denied their victims.

Anja, and the demands of justice, require no less.


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