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Heather Roy's Diary

Heather Roy's Diary

Parliament went to urgency this week to push through the last remaining stages of the Prisoners and Victims Claims Bill.

The Government first delayed the bill thinking that it would be a good look on crime if the bill was passed close to the election.

Then Justice Minister Phil Goff let his colleagues know he would not let them stand up against United Nations opposition to what victims want.

Victims didn’t seek money for themselves. They just hate the insult of payouts to criminals for hurt feelings, when victims get nothing from the criminals for the injuries they have sustained.

The Bill now legislates an illusion. It is supposed to mean that compensation awarded to prisoners will be handed over to their victims. In reality the ACC scheme blocks victims’ claims in all but a few cases. Victims have more chance of winning lotto.

This is the case that set the bill in motion.

The case of John Wharemako Gillies

John Gillies was recently convicted of assaulting a Hastings police officer following a high-speed car chase. He is currently in prison awaiting sentencing.

Assaults on police officers are regrettably common these days, but John Gillies is unusual in that he must have had one of the most rewarding criminal careers of all time.

His rise to infamy became public knowledge after his arrest for the attempted murder of Gisborne police officer Nigel Hendrikse in 1993. He had stabbed Mr Hendrikse a number of times and one of the wounds had been in the neck partially severing his spinal cord and leaving him with a permanent weakness on one side of his body.

Gillies was sentenced to12 years in jail for this crime, but while in Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison (then known as Mangaroa) he became a party to a lawsuit alleging mistreatment at the hands of prison officers.

A complaint was originally made against a number of prison officers. However the Crown Law Office decided not to prosecute them and most of the prisoners dropped out of the lawsuit, thinking their chance of gaining compensation in court was small.

As it turned out the case never went to court because an “out of court” settlement was reached with the government at the time.

Former Attorney General Margaret Wilson issued an apology to John Gillies and the other three Mongrel Mob prisoners involved. I would have thought giving those men an apology, without choking on the words, would have been extremely difficult. In addition to the apology they were given secret payments of $40,000 to $90,000.

The size of the compensation deal would never have come to light had it not been for questions asked in Parliament by Richard Prebble.

Phil Goff, who answered the questions, would neither confirm nor deny the amount, citing a confidentiality agreement - part of the Government’s out-of-court deal with the prisoners. Tony Ellis, the lawyer who represented the prisoners, would not comment on the size of the payout but said the confidentiality deal was entered into at the request of the Crown, not the prisoners.

His implication was that the Government was trying to cover its own tracks.

This story created horror throughout the country.

Justice Minister Phil Goff tried to have it both ways, saying that the prison officers had let him down by treating prisoners in such a way that he was forced to pay compensation “to these scum”.

As Richard Prebble pointed out it would have been almost impossible to find a jury In New Zealand who would support large cash payments to Mongrel Mob criminals and the Government should have contested the case.

It was particularly galling that the prisoners involved in compensation had outstanding fines and the fines were not recovered before the payments were made.

Gillies and his fellow Mongrel Mobsters victims’ were not informed that the perpetrators were about to come into money. If people like Mr Hendrikse had known, they could have sued for the damages caused by the original crimes.

While he was in prison, Gillies had a tattoo saying “Mongrel Mob Forever” removed using an expensive laser technique. This was done at taxpayers’ expense as part of his “rehabilitation”.

Gillies is now back in jail for assaulting a police officer and is clearly unrepentant about permanently injuring Mr Hendrikse. He has clearly not been rehabilitated. Giving large cash compensation merely encourages criminals to think that the rest of the world exists for their pleasure.

Interestingly today’s Dominion Post reports that Tony Ellis, the prisoners’ lawyer, told the Court of Appeal yesterday that the prisoners were courageous for being prepared to go through the civil court process. He said the $130,000 that was awarded to prisoners, which led to the law change to allow compensation to be handed to victims should be doubled”.

With situations and law changes like these it is blatantly obvious that ACT’s vision of Zero Tolerance for crime will never be achieved under the present regime.

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