Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Judicial caprice is no way to pursue law and order

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  • David Tong, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And yet in writing the original post it took only minutes to find the case of Ian Cole in Westport, who was sentenced in the same week to nine months home D and 150 hours community work – despite pleading not guilty and having been caught with all the trappings of commercial supply, $2000 cash, seven kilograms of cannabis and 20 plants and some LSD. The difference, I guess, is that a jury found him guilty of possessing for supply only the heads found in his car – but that was still twice what was found in van Gaalen’s house.

    I remain extremely unconvinced that McDonald’s hands were tied to the extent he said. Also, why wasn’t the option of community work explored? It would seem a very appropriate way to deal with van Gaalen.

    Cole seems to have been allowed to live in his house – and so were the Havelock couple who McDonald sentenced to six months home D after they admitted commercial dealing and growing, and selling BZP:

    I said these things were extremely rare. You found some of those rare cases. Without reading the sentencing decisions in each and having the full facts, we can't explain why van Gaalen fell on one side of the line and they on the other.

    Under <i>Terewi</i>, community work just wouldn't be an option. I agree that it sounds very appropriate, but I'm not in Parliament...

    Auckland • Since Jul 2015 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to David Tong,

    So, the Law is an ass, and a blind one at that....

    'toon, please...

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10816925

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to David Tong,

    But I'm very reluctant to call sentencing cases inconsistent without reading the sentencing decisions. Without doing that, we're flying blind.

    We ordinary Joes have to rely on reported cases David. And there are dozens if not hundreds of examples where more serious cases have received much lighter sentences. Surely the public prosector with the meth habit represents a worse threat to society than Kelly van Gaalen? Yet he only received a minor fine and no jail time.

    I've seen gang members receiving lesser sentences than this for similar breaches of the same law. What message does that send to society?

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1392 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Alfie,

    Sorry for the deviation from an important subject.

    It's very relevant to the functioning of anarchism as a political ideology: given the tree(s) are still standing.

    I haven't got any particular moral position on the merits of that action - (I'm a bit more of a red than a green anarcho-socialist) - but it was a joy to see it (as an action in and of its own right) succeed.

    A healthy, active civil society is crucial for democracy in the long term.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    The more effective anarchistic actions in my experience are the novel approaches.

    Totally. With regards to the kauri, at the time I kept trying to calculate the size of the forest if all those hours spent climbing, petitioning and liking on facebook were instead devoted to planting, but it's not like kauri grow on trees.

    Similarly with the pohutakawa 6, when their cuzzies ask them about things the trees usually mumble something about being jammed between a road and a carpark, limited space to root, constant noise, vibration and exhaust fumes, a pretty shit quality of life truth be told but they're stoked that they're valued enough in that state to be kept until the rot sets in.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    From what has been reported Kelly Van Gallen is an active visible community leader. She also by her own admission distributes cannabis albeit for free. As a role model for her community the judge may have seen it as his job to severely punish her for promoting a sanctioned substance from a position of respect and influence.

    Since Mar 2010 • 380 posts Report Reply

  • Campbell Larsen,

    While in no way attempting to excuse the Judges decision (and his try hard - tough on crime stance) this is noteworthy: 'Parole decisions are made by judges in some countries, such as Israel, where researchers investigated how those decisions are influenced by the critical human issue of lunch. Over the course of a day, the judges approve about 35% of prisoners’ applications for parole. But the approval rate declines steadily in the two hours before lunch, almost to zero just before the lunch break. Immediately after lunch, it spikes to 65% and then again declines steadily. If you’re a prisoner, the number of years you spend behind bars could be affected significantly by whether your parole application happens to be the last one on the judge’s stack before lunch or the first one after. [ http://fortune.com/2015/07/23/humans-are-underrated/ ]

    'The fracas started after Judge John McDonald finished sentencing a man to a month in jail on a charge of possessing a pipe used for smoking drugs.The man, facing other drugs charges, appeared for a callover and as he was being escorted back down to the building by First Security officers, the judge called him back. Judge McDonald opted to sentence him before lunch...' [ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503450&objectid=11131314 ]

    A month in jail for a pipe?! If that was the sentence on the 'lesser charge' I hate to think how the more serious one went. If I was that guy, in light of the research, I would be politely requesting a review of that trigger happy pre-lunch hunger driven vindictive decision

    Auckland • Since Aug 2015 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Campbell Larsen,

    Over the course of a day, the judges approve about 35% of prisoners’ applications for parole. But the approval rate declines steadily in the two hours before lunch, almost to zero just before the lunch break. Immediately after lunch, it spikes to 65% and then again declines steadily. If you’re a prisoner, the number of years you spend behind bars could be affected significantly by whether your parole application happens to be the last one on the judge’s stack before lunch or the first one after.

    I was told that a similar effect is noticed if the judge was trying to ignore the call of nature...

    Surely not?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Campbell Larsen, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    No idea - but it seems like a good reason to give Judges more loo and snack breaks at the very least. Here are some stats on untensil possession sentencing - it's pretty clear that the penalties are out of wack: PUNISHING DRUG USE

    How New Zealand has treated minor drug offenders over the past six years:

    CANNABIS POSSESSION
    Charges: 17,931
    Convicted: 13,131
    Imprisoned: 890
    Maximum penalty: 3 months in prison and/or a $500 fine

    CANNABIS UTENSIL
    (SUCH AS A PIPE)
    Charges: 11,057
    Convicted: 7,563
    Imprisoned: 737
    Maximum penalty: A year in prison and/or $500 fine

    METHAMPHETAMINE POSSESSION
    Charges: 2185
    Convicted: 1523
    Imprisoned: 341
    Maximum penalty: 6 months in prison and/or $1000 fine

    METHAMPHETAMINE UTENSI(SUCH AS A PIPE)

    Charges: 3899
    Convicted: 2765
    Imprisoned: 548
    Maximum penalty: A year in prison and/or a $500 fine

    - The Dominion Post via http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/8151844/Petty-drug-users-fill-New-Zealand-jails

    Auckland • Since Aug 2015 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    So, convicted of cannabis possession you have 1 in 14 chance of jail
    Pipe, 1 in 10
    Meth, 1 in 4
    Meth pipe, 1 in 5
    So the pipe is worse than the weed?.
    What the whatever?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Campbell Larsen, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Great illustration of how Police mug shots are never intended to show anything other than a 'threat to society' - probably the reason he opted for the more natural selfie

    Auckland • Since Aug 2015 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Mike O'Connell,

    Brian Rudman has a piece on this case in the Herald today: NZ should take a leaf out of liberal cannabis law.

    He points out the absurd inconsistency of McDonald's decision in comparison to a recent case in June in Ashburton where an Israeli couple, caught red-handed with 6kg (= 9 times as much as Kelly van Gaalen had) of dried cannabis, were discharged without conviction! (Though, in return for a $2000 donation to the Salvation Army.)

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 383 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Yeah, it's pretty fucked up, since possession of a utensil is really an indication of personal use. Maybe if you had 2 pipes....

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10647 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to BenWilson,

    possession of a utensil is really an indication of personal use.

    But there is the rub. Cannabis is usually shared, it is the people that don't share that tend to be the problem smokers, a joint for breakfast etc.
    Sharing a joint with a couple of friends is the norm as far as I can tell so supply on that level could, technically, get you busted for supply.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody,

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I think the harshness is due to the “crime” being something that many people don’t see as illegal (or they have the cognitive dissonance thing going on where they smoke weed themselves but still think it should be banned. This is surprisingly common).

    I honestly believe that the quickest way we’d see positive change in this country would be if the cannabis supply to those in positions of influence were to suddenly dry up.

    The police have real power here to make a change that would make their jobs more interesting, if they chose to put their feet down on the right targets.

    In the past Russell has been fairly critical of members of ALC and NORML members over their shortcomings, and while I understand the frustration, all things considered, they are for the most part simply activists, they are not the invisible difference. It’s the media and politicians who hold the reigns on this, and in all fairness, Russell is – bar none – the most visible pro drug reform media personality out there. Sniff hard enough and be greeted by the aromatic scent of 100s of prominent New Zealanders, prepared to toke the toke but not talk the talk, languishing in his shadow. If they were all suddenly unable to source, who knows what could happen.

    There were a lot of myths put about in the eighties about cannabis; that it makes your lazy, that it destroys motivation etc. I never found these to be that accurate, on the contrary I’ve found cannabis makes you more focused, more engrossed in whatever it is that you’re doing, but also that users tend to shy away from confrontation. It’s a comfort zone magnet. As someone who has not partaken of anything (legal or otherwise) for quite some time I’m hounded by a nagging suspicion that ironically the biggest impediment to the decriminalisation of cannabis in New Zealand is the pervasiveness of cannabis in our society.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Tudor Clee, in reply to Nick Russell,

    Hi Nick. Actually yes supply of class C needs to be commercial - unless it is to someone under 18. That makes it distinct from Class A and B which do not require commerciality to be supply. This is the precise point which makes this matter so fishy - if the Judge accepted there was no commerciality the verdict has no basis. But need to see the full decision.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2015 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Tudor Clee, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Hi Steve, I've just replied to someone else on this point - Class C is not supply without commerciality unless to someone under 18 - that distinction was made precisely to avoid turning people passing around a joint into suppliers.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2015 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    Well, hey...

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11533512

    After questioning Mr Anson on how quickly home detention could be arranged, the three justices had a brief adjournment and stated the issue could be dealt with within 15 minutes upon re-entering the court.

    Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins said he understood where the case was going.

    "I sense that there might be a slight headwind moving into [home detention]," he said.

    "The Crown's position remains that there is no error by the judge. He's not fallen into [a] trap.

    "Having said that, I do allow it's a stern sentence that has been imposed."

    The decision was reserved, but Justice Harrison said the determination could be expected "very promptly".

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Great news.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    “Having said that, I do allow it’s a stern sentence that has been imposed.”

    Well, quite. All that guff from McDonald J about being "troubled" by the sentence he supposedly had to impose was tosh. Good grief.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    This can no longer be found, it seems the article you linked to which I read yesterday, has been removed from the Herald . Even a capture of some of what you show quoted returns no article in the Herald although I selected some of it and the article said it existed, as soon as I select that ,it still shows no such thing in the Herald. Definitely gone and nothing to follow up on it either. Nada.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    This can no longer be found, it seems the article you linked to which I read yesterday, has been removed from the Herald .

    Luckily, Google remembers everything.
    Original article published: Thursday, 22 October 2015

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1392 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Alfie,

    Thanks Alfie, I was really trying to see what the outcome was as home detention was supposed to be considered "promptly". Well, if this is promptly, I'll eat my hat.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

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