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Playing The Race Card And Conduct Most Heinous

Society For Promotion Of Community Standards Inc.
Po Box 13-683. Johnsonville, New Zealand

Playing The Race Card And Conduct Of A Most Heinous Kind

Wednesday 26 June 2002

Smashing a terracotta tile on the head of a jogger he had brutally raped and sexually tortured, was the way Flaxmere man, Dartelle Alder, 23, killed his victim Margaret Lynne Baxter, 38, of Wellington. The Court of Appeal said the purpose of the killing was to silence the victim in an attempt to escape responsibility for “conduct of the most heinous kind”. A 15-year non-parole period was imposed on Alder in the High Court at Napier in December last year. The Court of Appeal’s decision announced yesterday, to quash that sentence and increase the non-parole period to a minimum of 17 years, will provide little comfort to the grieving friends and family of the victim. The increased sentence came about through the intervention of the Solicitor-General who appealed the High Court decision and sought a minimum jail period of 18 years.

Alder carried out a brutal pre-meditated attack on a defenceless jogger using his vehicle to incapacitate her. He then kidnapped her, subjected her to vicious and prolonged sexual torture, raping her whilst stabbing her more than 30 times. Her mutilated and violated body was found bundled into the boot of his car ready for dumping somewhere. The heinous nature of this crime has outraged the country and yet the best the Solicitor-General and our judiciary can come up with is a minimum17-year non-parole. One wonders what else Alder would have needed to do to the victim for the jail term to be have been increased to a minimum of 18 years!

The Dominion (December 8) reported last year that during the trial and sentencing Alder showed “no sign of remorse”. He was defended by lawyer Russell Fairbrother, who raised the question: “How could a young man who psychiatrists did not consider a psychopath, act like the worst psychopath?” Fairbrother, who is standing for the Labour ticket in Hastings, having been selected by his party to succeed Geoffrey Braybrooke MP who has just retired, raised a critical question. It is one that politicians and the judiciary need to give careful thought to.

In his submissions last year to Justice Gendall, on behalf of Alder, who is Maori, Fairbrother argued that the answer to explaining his criminal behaviour could be found in the fate of so many Maori who ended up in criminal courts. There was inequality between Maori and the white ruling class, he said, and locking Alder away for most of his life ignored the factors “troubling our society and reflected in this case”. (The term “white ruling class” actually appears in Fairbrother’s submission, according to Philip Kitchen who wrote the Dominion story. [pers. comm.]).

The Society for Promotion of Community Standards executive committee believes that most New Zealanders would be outraged by Fairbrother’s attempt to play the ‘race card’ and invoke a ‘doctrine’ of racial hegemony to ‘explain’ Alder’s criminal behaviour in order to lobby for a reduced sentence. One would hope that Fairbrother knew he was just clutching at straws in order to ‘defend’ his man. But given that this ‘explanation’ for Maori crime has been heard many times before, one suspects he may not have been. Isn’t a 23-year old, whether he is Maori or any other race, who has been raised in what has been described as a “decent and supportive family,” morally accountable for his own actions? It appears that Fairbrother thinks he is not.

Fairbrother’s ‘explanation’ for the disproportionate numbers of Maori criminals is demeaning to Maoridom, in that it attempts to shift the blame for immoral and criminal behaviour onto the actions of other racial groups (the so-called “white ruling class”) and suggests that Maoris need a “white” scapegoat because they cannot deal with or accept accountability for their own wrongdoing. It also avoids confronting other factors underlying moral rectitude, ones which Maoridom can do something about. Furthermore, it is also highly offensive to non-Maori “whites” who are constantly being asked by the likes of Fairbrother and the politically-correct brigade, to wear the blame to some degree for every moral outrage which is committed by Maori.

The famed Russian novelist Feodor Dostoievsky sounded the alarm on the trend towards blaming environmental factors in an attempt to evade moral responsibility as early as 1873. No ivory tower critic (he had been in penal servitude himself) he nonetheless held that “self purification through suffering is easier, I tell you: easier – than that destiny which you are paving for many [criminals] by wholesale acquittals in court. You are merely planting cynicism in their souls; you are leaving in them a seductive question and a contempt for yourselves…Oh gentlemen of the bar, stop spinning around with your ‘environment’!”. Dostoievsky recalled that not one of the criminals he met was ever heard grumbling and “Not one of them ceased to consider himself a criminal”. Significantly, he remembered their faces and that “not one of them, in his innermost, considered himself right!” He warned that the new courts were beginning to foster, by contrast, an atmosphere where “You infuse into [the criminals’] souls incredulity in the popular truth, in the truth of God; you are leaving them confused…They will walk away and think: ‘Oh, that’s the way things are now; there is no strictness. Well, they have grown wiser. Perhaps they are afraid. Therefore, one can do it again. It stands to reason: if I was in such a need, why should I not have stolen!” (from The Citizen, 1873, No. 2)

The total absence of remorse in Alder for the atrocities he committed has been viewed by media commentators as abnormal. But what is normal?

Rev. Gordon Dempsey, President of the Society asks:

“Is a society normal which allows its young people, 18 years and older, to be ‘entertained’ by and have easy access to films and videos such as the French sex-violence film Baise Moi, which focus on the triple cocktail of sexual torture, explicit sex and graphic violence? Is a society normal which fails to understand that such material is always likely to be injurious to the public good, regardless of the age of the audience, in that it tends to desensitise, normalise and promote the very activities and underlying anti-social and criminal mindset that is responsible for much of the damage to family life, and relationships in NZ society? Where is the genuine remorse and quickened conscience in our community over our lack of action and passivity, in allowing these cancers of moral sickness and depravity to grow and thrive in our midst?”

The sheer brutality of many of the sexual attacks reported on in the media have left Judges reeling and stumbling for words to use at sentencing to condemn these atrocities in the strongest terms. Justice Gendall described Alder’s crimes as “cruel and unspeakable”. One wonders whether he would he use the same same words to describe the litany of depravities featured in films like Baise-Moi?

While weeping relatives and victims listened as the “horrific facts” about the Flaxmere murder case were read out in the High Court last year, Alder is reported to have sat “emotionless” and “barely flickered” at sentencing.

“One wonders,” says Dempsey, “why the conscience of many barely flickers sufficiently to compel them to take action against the influences in society that breed the mindset that gives rise to sexual violence and torture. Objectionable material that gratuitously depicts these degrading matters for the purpose of ‘entertainment’ is just one of the many cancers that society must remove.”

He asks: “If the purpose of the Alder’s killing was to silence the victim in an attempt to escape responsibility for ‘conduct of the most heinous kind’, what can be said about the purposes of those who allow the same conduct to invade out theatres and television programming and pass as ‘entertainment’? Can we just sit idly by like Alder, trying to evade our social responsibilities, and show no remorse for the cancers we have allowed to proliferate in our society?”

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