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Sensible Sentencing Guilty of Elder Abuse

Sensible Sentencing Guilty of Elder Abuse

Embargoed until 12 midday, Thursday 2 August 2012

“Garth McVicar’s recent speech to the Wanganui Probus Clubs, was clearly intended to make people believe that we live in a dangerous and unsafe world, compared to forty years ago”. Said Kim Workman, of Rethinking Crime and Punishment in a speech to the Waterloo Probus Club today. “In our view it is irresponsible to mislead the public in that way. When that message is directed at our senior citizens, it becomes a form of elder abuse.”

When, after hearing Garth McVicar speak, elderly people are too frightened to walk to the corner dairy to buy an ice-cream, the Sensible Sentencing Trust itself becomes a threat to public safety”.

Garth McVicar’s speech, as reported in the Wanganui Chronicle, is packed with misleading and untrue statements. http://www.wanganuichronicle.co.nz/news/sensible-sentencings-message-impresses-elderly/1482271/
Firstly, Mr McVicar recalled a time in the 1970s when crime rates were low. Crime rates were not low in the 1970’s. The crime rate increased steadily from the 1950’s through the 1970’s and peaked in 1992. The crime rate has been declining since then.

Secondly, he said that in the 1970’s the public was safe because of the ‘bobby on the beat”. The fact is that since the 1950’s the per capita number of sworn police has more than doubled. I was a Police officer in the period 1958 to 1976, and I it is clear to me that the community are getting better protection from the Police than ever before.

Thirdly, he said that “Six police officers are assaulted every day these days.” There is no evidence of a serious increase in the number of assaults against the Police. While assaults against the Police increased from 216 in 1999 to 412 in 2009, the general population increased by 480,700 during that period, and the number of sworn police officers increased by 1,766. Over that period the number of assaults per sworn police officer has barely changed.

Fourthly, he claimed that there is a loss of respect for the police. There is no evidence that respect for the Police is on the decline. The 2011 Citizens’ Satisfaction Survey, shows that more people than before are expressing high levels of trust and confidence and are feeling safe in their neighbourhoods and town centres.

Fifthly, he said that "New Zealand used to be the safest country in the Western world”.
New Zealand is still considered to be one of the safest countries in the OECD. Recent research at Victoria University showed that while people, (including those living in high crime areas), considered their own locality safe, they were much more likely to report that crime problems were serious and increasing across the nation as a whole. The research showed that this view came from sensationalist media coverage, and alarmist groups such as the Sensible Sentencing Trust who promoted public fear of crime; a fear unjustified by the facts.

For some years now, the Sensible Sentencing Trust has been spreading misleading and inaccurate information about the state of crime and justice in New Zealand, and has played a major part in unnecessarily increasing fear of crime among our senior citizens. They understand that if they can promote fear amongst the elderly, it will increase support for their policies, which are based on emotion rather than evidence. The creation of moral panic within our senior citizens, contributes to public fear and causes the elderly to feel unsafe.

Rethinking has today written to the Wanganui Chronicle, drawing attention to the misleading information. It has also asked that the letter be forwarded to the Probus Clubs of Wanganui. The letter can be read at:


Kim Workman
Rethinking Crime and Punishment

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