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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  • fraser munro,

    "PS Simon Bridges was a Crown Prosecutor"

    off topic and all - but i still become gobsmacked each time read/hear that

    ranui • Since Nov 2014 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Rosemary,

    Tone?

    Also, to pick up on other comments, you're targetting the wrong actor here. In fact, you're committing the very same mistake that Garth McVicar, et al, do whenever they rail against defence lawyers who use the system to protect criminals.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to David Tong,

    To a lawyer with experience in criminal sentencing, the prosecutor’s statement is utterly mundane. It’s a completely routine game

    Yes, a "routine game", I agree, and that's part of the problem as I see it.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Andrew,

    ?

    Please explain...who am I targeting?

    Who am I railing against?

    I'm kinda feeling singled out here...

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

  • David Tong,

    Sure - and there's definitely scope for improvement in our sentencing methods. JustSpeak especially have done outstanding work around this. But it's not the individual lawyers or judges who wrote the rules of the game. They're playing their roles in a system that can only really (beyond pilots the Court of New Beginnings etc) changed by Parliament. Blaming or condemning individual actors in this system is - as Andrew says - making the same mistake as Garth McVicar.

    I'd also say that the original post wrongly tilted at judicial discretion, which I think is an utterly essential component of sentencing. It is what allows judges to tailor sentences to individual offences' facts and offenders' unique backgrounds. The problem isn't judicial discretion; the problem is a statutory scheme that (a) needlessly and severely criminalises marijuana use; and (b) sets out an exhaustive, inconsistent list of purposes (if you can structure a sentence for an offender that both rehabilitates them and denounces their conduct and deters others, but doesn't punish them, you're a smarter person than me by far) based on some problematic assumptions about imprisonment.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2015 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    Kaikohe , Kaikohe ?!!!
    All you have to do is ramble a bit out of town and you'll find marijuana growing somewhere. it's so prevalent it self seeds up in that part of the north, I've found a random bush just minding it's own business, more than once. I'd hazard a guess that every second or third house would have a personal pot stash up there.

    Kaikohe is a part of our country where the poorest of the poor live, where hope or dreaming of a future are not things people have or do. So to prosecute someone who actively brings hope, who brings the community together who does good stuff. This is just all the wrong.

    To me it feels morally wrong, heaven forbid we as a country focus on actual criminals who are doing actual harm to society. No lets go after someone who makes the world better. it may be all the legal correctness in the world, but it's wrong.

    this is the give a little page for her legal fees, she's appealing the sentence
    https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/legalfundsforkelly

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to David Tong,

    So, the prosecutor was talking about deterring other people from cultivating cannabis

    While what the prosecutor is effectively doing is deterring cannabis cultivators from reporting incidental crime.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    A prison sentence for someone so highly engaged in her wider community seems stupidly counterproductive. The judge is the person here showing that the law is contemptible.

    Since Mar 2010 • 379 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to David Tong,

    But it’s not the individual lawyers or judges who wrote the rules of the game.

    It’s NOT a game for goodness sake. And until the legal profession stop referring to it as such, there really is no hope. That’s my whole point – the profession can no longer dehumanise the law – it’s why local protest of the firm sends a message, whether the prosecutor was simply "playing the game" by the rules or not. Real people, real lives.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    I think you have the wrong target. If you want to prevent this sort of thing happening, there are a bunch of people down here in Wellington who can actually change the law. Lawyers and courts, not so much.

    Sentencing can sometimes look like a bit of a lottery (which is not to suggest I think it is a game). That's why it can be helpful to have the sentencing notes. They will tell you exactly what the Judge took into account when he decided on the sentence. But the bottom line is that cultivating cannabis for supply - which she appears to admit doing - is a fairly serious offence and the only way that will change is by amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

    What I find interesting is that we seem to have a lot of support for decriminalising cannabis outside Parliament, but hardly any inside Parliament. The only mainstream party to have supported decriminalisation that I can think of has decided it isn't worth the bother and no longer seems interested. The received wisdom seems to be that it just isn't worth the trouble. I think that will probably change sooner or later, who knows, maybe cases like this will actually help. But I'm not holding my breath.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    It’s NOT a game for goodness sake

    Ah, but it is to them...in my experience.

    You sit in a courtroom.

    The players...The Lawyer for your side chatting and joking with the Lawyer for their side.

    Looking at photos on each other's i phone (and the Judge having to suspend proceedings because the Lawyer left her phone on and its messing with the microphones) while you sit right there.

    You'd like to think, that at least on stage, they'd at least pretend to be on opposite sides.

    Perhaps make it not quite so obvious that to them it is just a game.

    When to us...it could be a matter of life or death.

    IMHO, FWIW, I think that there is something rather rotten gone on here....the Police, the Lawyers, the Judge?

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

  • 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).

    Hence, some judges might see a harsh sentence as they only way of asserting the attitude of the state over that of a large number of its subjects. See also (historically) poaching, smuggling.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Nick Russell,

    maybe cases like this will actually help.

    I agree they will - provided the right action is taken by civil society. And that action has nothing to do with scientific evidence or rational studies in criminology - that's all been treid and exhausted. So, attack the establishment at every periphery, I say. After all, I paid that Crown Prosecutor, that Judge, all the Courts staff, the Police with MY taxes - AND now I'm also paying to keep a community-minded Mum from a disadvantaged Far North District in jail. And I object strongly.

    Put the legal firm out of commercial business - and perhaps some Government will sit up and listen. After all - these folks are more their constituency than the man/woman on the street in Kaikohe.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Murray Hewitt,

    Apropos of ... nothing really - many years ago I engaged a lawyer named R. John McDonald to represent me for a driving charge. I saw the framed law degree in his office just before the court case - and found out to my chagrin what the "R" stood for (no prizes).

    Wainui • Since Jan 2008 • 21 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    You want to shut down the criminal justice system?

    Well, good luck with that. Do let us know how you get on.

    I think Rich is right. Lots of people say they care about decriminalising cannabis, but their behaviour suggests otherwise, and the political parties know that very well. That's why none of them are promising to do anything about it. They know when push comes to shove, most people who vote either don't really care about this one way or the other, or approve of the current law.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to David Tong,

    I’d also say that the original post wrongly tilted at judicial discretion, which I think is an utterly essential component of sentencing. I

    The post says the opposite. It was the judge who claimed to have no discretion – the examples I provided were intended to demonstrate that was plainly untrue.

    But … I think we’ve reached the point with this 40 year-old law where police, prosecutorial and judicial discretion are no longer adequate. The law itself needs to change.

    The Law Commission and two Parliamentary select committee inquiries say so too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to chris,

    While what the prosecutor is effectively doing is deterring cannabis cultivators from reporting incidental crime.

    No the police did that. They had the option of a warning, confiscation and destruction. But, by bringing charges, they are sending a message saying anyone doing anything outside the law better not ask for Police help lest they get nabbed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Nick Russell,

    But the bottom line is that cultivating cannabis for supply – which she appears to admit doing

    Where are you getting that info from ?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to David Tong,

    There’s a lot of supposition going on here. Has anyone seen Judge McDonald’s sentencing note?

    No. But given that he had plenty to say about his decision, surely he'd have mentioned any material factors such as those you've noted?

    I've just been told that the reason we haven't heard from Doug Blaikie is that he was so shocked by the sentence he had a stroke shortly afterwards.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    While what the prosecutor is effectively doing is deterring cannabis cultivators from reporting incidental crime.

    And the police did that

    fixed that for you.

    They had the option of a warning, confiscation and destruction.

    You’re implying the police should have let someone in possession of 22 oz of cannabis off with a warning, confiscation and destruction but that a prosecutor gunning for 3 years prison time for that offence is just doing her job. As far as policing the law goes I don't feel that the police have stepped too far outside their brief in this instance.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    The original Northern Advocate article. She had over half a kilo and told the Court she supplied it to "about 20 close friends". That'll do it. Supply doesn't need to be commercial. If it had been commercial she probably would have got more than 2 years.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Nick Russell,

    You want to shut down the criminal justice system?

    Of course not – stop sensationalising what I’m saying. As Russell points out the Law Commission and two Parliamentary select committee inquiries say the law is an ass. I’m sick and tired of watching my fellow countrymen and woman and in particular, youth, persecuted by a system itself which is corrupt for its acceptance and participation in “the game”.

    Anarchy is called for – we are ruining young folks and their parents lives and leaving the real criminal element (gangs and their associates) to profit on the sale of a largely harmless weed, if we compare it and its effects to that of alcohol in our society. Let’s get real. Keeping pot illegal helps our GDP – more prisons for the private sector to run, more work for the private sector law firms to capitalise on, more energy spent flying helicopters above the bush, more surveillance cameras purchased from the importers, etc etc.

    How many kids lunches could we supply for all that?

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I’ve just been told that the reason we haven’t heard from Doug Blaikie is that he was so shocked by the sentence he had a stroke shortly afterwards

    Shit.

    Now that in itself says much.

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

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Nick Russell,

    If it had been commercial she probably would have got more than 2 years.

    And yet I was easily able to find examples of same that did not attract a custodial sentence.

    My former (and now deceased) neighbour was caught manufacturing heroin and didn't go to jail, despite a long list of previous. An acquaintance, also with previous, was busted with pot, pills, speed and $15k in cash and only got home detention.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    and leaving the real criminal element (gangs and their associates)

    Hmmm,,,,small town Far North.

    Two youth passing a rugby ball get spoken to by the local Police. "Go play in the park." "Not allowed," says one youth, "we're not allowed in the park because the gangs hang out there..."

    Police do nothing. Locals say the cops just want to keep the peace with the gangs.

    Same town, Couple from out of town rent a house on a cheap street...soon find out the local gang lives nearby. They try to ignore the increasingly intimidating behaviour from their neighbours...but eventually, fearing for their children, they go to the police. As soon as the police hear the address...they refuse to deal to it.

    Family move out of town.

    Yet the same cops routinely ping locals for minor traffic offences.,,,low hanging fruit being so much easier to pick.

    Same town. The local high school refuses to address the chronic problem with gang youth dealing drugs at and around the school. White flight eventuates...
    Hope here maybe, new Principal promises change, remaining families promising support...but its hard...because of the gangs.

    No, you don't mess with the gangs.

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

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