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A Cry for Justice

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MARC MY WORDS 27 May 2005

A Cry for Justice

Earlier this year I wrote about the tragic case of Shannon McComb: a young man much loved by his family, who was repeatedly brutalised, assaulted and finally killed by two thugs, Kevin Green and Pakanui Morice.

Both were handed 17 year minimum non-parole sentences – as a reflection of the severity of the crime and the victim impact report from Shannon’s family. Not surprisingly in this day and age when abdication of personal responsibility is common, these two killers are appealing the sentence. The contention is that neither Morice nor Green ‘meant’ to kill Shannon; that they were unaware of the danger of what they were doing, that the sentence should focus on rehabilitative aspects rather than the punitive; and that such a long sentence flies in the face of the so-called principle of re-integration.

What a load of codswallop!

It is a matter of public record that evidence presented in the hearing last year uncovered a sequence of events so resolutely evil and so uncompromisingly brutal, it’s hard to imagine how any lawyer who has any sense of compassion for a parents’ love for their child – let alone a love for justice – would put up any excuse for offenders such as these.

Evidence was given that these two miscreants had picked on Shannon over two days, including pulling his shelter down, using their fists, shoes, a knife and fence palings in repeated attacks; with the level of prolonged violence in the final attack estimated at between 1? to 2 hours. There were at least 12 blows to Shannon’s head and evidence of 51 injuries, including a pathologist’s evidence that his skull was ‘caved in’.

They picked on him because they could. He was an exceptionally vulnerable, slightly built young man whose hands had been permanently injured in a traumatic house fire years before. He was a sweet man who had never hurt anyone and, despite living away from family, was close to them. When he tried to escape, these thugs chased him, cornering him like prey – I imagine the measure of fear was equal to the physical aspects of the attacks.

Only Green and Morice know for sure whether they meant to kill Shannon. In any event, it’s irrelevant – they did kill him. It was no accident; it did not have to happen. Their actions were freely chosen and resulted in the death of an innocent man. They are responsible.

Green and Morice may well have been unaware that their actions would result in death but again, that is irrelevant. What did they think their bullying, their persistent violence, and their choice of weapons were going to do? The infliction of bodily injury was clearly intended – the degree to which it was applied was within their control – as were the consequences. Again, they and they alone are responsible.

Justice Venning decided that these two deserved their sentences noting the exceptionally brutal nature of the killing. And now they appeal.

Will these two ever rehabilitate? Who knows and who cares. Eighty six per cent of inmates are reconvicted within five years of release so the odds aren’t good. The more important issue is whether the sentence reflects the impact of the crime on the victim, as much as the sanctions that society places as the price of the crime.

Nothing can ever recompense Shannon’s family for what they have lost. For them the sentence is life. Seventeen years non-parole is not much of a price for the life of a young man but as a reference to other sentences is reasonable.

To those who think such a lengthy sentence is unreasonably punitive I would argue that it should not be unreasonably non-punitive. In killing Shannon, Green and Morice have denied him the rest of his life (50 odd years or so if the actuaries are to be believed), why then should they forfeit any less? When we start siding with the interests of those who choose to kill rather than those killed we have lost balance and perspective. What price for your child’s life? As a society we must argue from the victims’ corner, putting them first.

Justice Venning was right. Nothing can ever bring back Shannon but his cries should not be stilled by behavioural apologists who see his killers as more than what they are.


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