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Marc My Words: Maybe it's time to give up

Fri, 6 Aug 2004

Marc My Words.by Marc Alexander MP

Maybe it's time to give up.

In the last week we have been flooded by cases that put the spotlight on our flawed criminal justice system. Our appetiser on the week's criminal menu started with 48 year-old Jo-Anne Mary Rhodes.

She was sentenced to 4 ½ years in 2000 for a whopping 165 multiple fraud offences totalling $452,000, reduced on appeal by a year. In a betrayal of those who considered her sentence to be too harsh, she has been jailed yet again (for another 4½ years), pleading guilty to 11 charges of forgery, 11 charges of using forged documents, 26 charges of using documents fraudulently, 20 charges of false pretences, one of illegally procuring a passport, five of using a false passport and one charge of credit by fraud, worth a total of $382,000.

If you do the maths, this works out to receiving a year's worth of three square meals a day, medical and dental care, and individualised rehabilitation programmes plus a roof over her head, for each $104,250 she fleeced off innocent taxpayers who now have to pay out an additional $70,000 a year for the privilege of being defrauded! That's nuts!

For our entrée we have Christchurch District Court Judge Phil Moran describing as his 'darkest day' his sentencing of a 14 year-old boy to two years in jail for rape. I understand how he feels but for a somewhat different reason. Not only was two years a slap in the face of the victim but the Judge has also given the rapist leave to apply for home detention. The sad truth is that the Judge probably had little alternative. Because of the guilty plea a discount on the sentence was mandatory.

It still begs the question: how is it that a rapist can use such force on a victim that results in internal injuries and a life-long profound effect, to receive a sentence of only two years, some of which may be spent at home? It smells like something, and it isn't justice.

Then for the main course: a sexual assault by a rapist on bail, with a side order of a reduction in sentence for a serial rapist. In both cases logic takes a tumble and justice goes into a judicial coma.

Gary Jones was on bail for the rape and assault of a woman and the indecent assault of a 12-year-old when he sexually violated a 13-year old. He did receive a ten year sentence for the prior offences but why was he ever given the benefit of the doubt, so he was able to commit that last offence? What benefit was ever given to the innocent in allowing such a malicious predator a freedom he has now stolen from his latest victim? We need to wake up to the reality that these 'people' are different and do not deserve to be treated with the same courtesies that we normally reserve for law-abiding members of civil society. Bluntly, they are not civil, despising civility in others with a respect for nothing other than their own unnatural behaviours.

In the second assault on our common sense of justice, we have a serial rapist, Nicholas Reekie, who raped four women aged between eleven and 69 years. He was sentenced to preventative detention for a minimum of 25 years but in an utterly shameful stroke, the Appeal Court reduced that by five years.

I think it is past time that judgements of this kind which inevitably benefit the criminal rather than the victim also be open to appeal. It is my opinion that we give all the breaks in the wrong direction. Yes.we must ensure that innocent men are not falsely convicted, and when we do get it right, let's send a loud and clear message that victims come first, crimes will be punished to the fullest extent, and that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no justice at all.

Maybe it's time to give up? Like hell I will!


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