Monday, April 29, 2013

"The worst of the worst"

When National passed its "three strikes" legislation in 2010, they promised that it would not be like California's, and target shoplifters, drug dealers, and other petty criminals. Instead, it would be used on "the worst of the worst". Throughout the debates (which are linked to from here), they repeatedly referred to "the worst murderers", the "worst serious violent offenders" and the "worst" sexual offenders. So who are actually they using it on? Dumbarse muggers:

The controversial "three strikes" legislation has seen a young man jailed without parole and warned that if he steals another skateboard, hat or cellphone he will spend 14 years behind bars.

In issuing Elijah Akeem Whaanga, 21, his second strike, Judge Tony Adeane told the Hastings man his two "street muggings" that netted "trophies of minimal value" meant his outlook was now "bleak in the extreme".

"When you next steal a hat or a cellphone or a jacket or a skateboard you will be sent to the High Court and there you will be sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment without parole," Judge Adeane said.

So, it turns out that National were lying. Judith Collins thinks that this is an example of the law working. I guess she's forgotten all the assurances she gave back in 2010.

If our legal system thinks that this dumbarse is among "the worst of the worst", or that his crimes merit 14 years imprisonment without parole, then it is fundamentally disproportionate and unjust. If our politicians think it is anything other than a waste of public money, then they are simply insane.

But its hard to see how, if this moron gets to a third strike, the Bill of Rights Act's affirmation of freedom from disproportionately severe treatment or punishment would not be invoked. Which should see the law being "read down" to include discretion on sentencing where it would be manifestly unjust (something that only exists at present for the parole decision). The politicians will squeal, but if they won't obey the BORA as they promised, the courts will just have to do it for them.

(I'd suggest that juries simply start refusing to convict people where legislated sentences woudl be unjust, as they did in the C17th in response to the "Bloody Code", but National deprived most people of the right to trial by jury last year...)