More than just a troubling sentence

The sentencing of a Kaikoke woman was reported earlier his week in the Northern Advocate: Kaikohe mum hit by jail term

A leading figure in Kaikohe’s arts and business communities has been jailed for two years after being found guilty of possession of cannabis for supply.

Kelly van Gaalen was sentenced in the Kaikohe District Court on Thursday following a jury trial last month.

I think this is a very troubling sentence – and the sentencing judge thought similarly.

Judge McDonald gave her credit for her previous good record and “extremely worthwhile contribution”, but said he had to be consistent with sentences imposed for other, similar offences.

“To say this sentencing has troubled me is an understatement,” he said.

While the conviction was for “possession of cannabis for supply” there was no evidence of any commercial activity.

Van Gaalen had told the court it was for personal use and to give away to about 20 close friends. She had two plants, one of which had grown exceptionally well. She said she smoked cannabis daily and had started when she was 14.

Judge McDonald said there was no evidence of commercial dealing, such as text messages on her phone, but Parliament had set the upper limit for personal use at 28g. Van Gaalen had 24 times that and knew it was against the law.

“It is not for this court to comment whether that is a just law or not,” he said.

No, that’s something our politicians and our Parliament should be addressing, urgently.

And the way this ‘offending’ was discovered makes this case even more difficult to accept.

Judge John McDonald told the court that van Gaalen’s husband had been the victim of a violent home invasion by three armed men on July 14 last year. Mr van Gaalen, who was home alone, managed to escape and raise the alarm.

However, when police arrived they discovered a bucket of dried cannabis and more in a snaplock bag.

Maybe police have a duty to uphold the law and prosecute transgressions but for fucks sake.

I hope to they at least investigated the violent home invasion as well.

If this case doesn’t prompt Parliament to review our drug laws, especially related to cannabis, then our MPs remain shockingly out of touch.

I certainly question the sense in the daily smoking of a drug since age 14. But sentencing someone to two years prison for recreational use of a relatively harmless drug is a travesty of sensible justice.

It’s more than senseless. It’s a disgrace that our justice system still insists on this sentence. It’s a disgrace that our MPs refuse to reconsider laws that insist on this sentence.

This is more than just a troubling sentence. It’s shocking. It should be our politicians’ inaction that is condemned.

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73 Comments

  1. David

     /  8th August 2015

    Personally I think all drugs should be de criminalised but the woman had a commercial quantity which she supplied to about 20people and its stretching things to imagine there was no benefit even if it wasnt in cash. She also put her family at risk.
    Supplying drugs is illegal and being a nice person shouldn’t stop you getting locked up, personally I think she is an idiot.

    Reply
    • Certainly she knowingly took risks, although the circumstances of the discovery was unlucky.

      But a two year prison sentence is not going to solve anything. If draconian sentences were a deterrent cannabis wouldn’t be used more in New Zealand than most if not all other countries. The law isn’t working and this sentence won’t fix anything.

      Reply
      • Mike C

         /  8th August 2015

        @George

        How would a bucket of marijuana be worth if sold from a Tinny House?

        I don’t have a clue … but I imagine it would be worth quite a few grand.

        Reply
        • Rob

           /  8th August 2015

          Should she be convicted of those possible profits when it is her years supply and she wasn’t supplying a tinny house?

          Reply
          • Mike C

             /  8th August 2015

            @Rob

            I was just asking what it was worth … not saying she should be in jail 🙂

            Reply
            • kittycatkin

               /  8th August 2015

              No matter what we think, selling drugs is illegal-and I don’t believe that anyone’s generous enough to risk it by giving it away, which is still supplying even if no money changed hands. I suspect that it did. 20 close friends ? Who has 20 close friends who are also dope smokers ? This was a tinny house, I’d be willing to bet.

              Would people be so lenient if there was a tinny house in their street ? I will be honest and say that I wouldn’t like it at all-even though I have smoked dope in the past.

            • You underestimate the social factor in Maori communities, Kitty. This lady was very active in local government and the community if you read the newspaper article. She would have known hundreds of people, grown up with and be related to many of them. 20 is an entirely feasible number for her to have hosted and given to over a relatively short period of time.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  8th August 2015

      Being an idiot or an addict should not get you locked up.

      Reply
  2. the Judge said “he had to be consistent” dear god what a wanker – since when have the Judges in NZ EVER been consistent in how they apply the sentences ??? Very few and far between i would suggest.

    Reply
  3. Mike C

     /  8th August 2015

    I do believe that cannabis for ones personal use should be legal.

    However, this woman wasn’t just growing it for her own personal use. She was growing it for mass number usage.

    If there hadn’t been so much of it sitting in her house, then I think her sentence would not have involved jail time, because I know of a court case here locally, where a guy was growing marijuana for his own use up in his ceiling rafters, and all he got was 40 hours community service, and yet he already had a criminal record.

    Reply
    • there you have it – inconsistent.

      although it raises an interesting point RE massive amounts for supply, but not for profit

      Reply
      • THE TYRANT – can you please pop me an email and verify your identity, your supplied email address hasn’t responded to a request. With your obvious interest in certain legal actions you should disclose any associations.

        Reply
  4. jaspa

     /  8th August 2015

    It is hardly a commercial quantity for someone that grows their own plants outdoors. It is an annual crop, so only flowers and is harvested once a year. I would imagine most people who grow for personal use would have similar amounts tucked away at that time of year to last them until the following autumn, allowing them to avoid using “tinny houses” and gangs for their supply throughout the year. I grew pumpkins in my home garden last year and harvested 40-50 in one week in autumn – far more that I could eat in one week – does this mean I was a commercial pumpkin grower, even for that one week? Of course not, I have stored them for use throughout winter.

    At the very least the law should take the seasonal nature of the crop into account.

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  8th August 2015

      No, but pumpkins aren’t a classified drug and people don’t get stoned on them. The law can’t take the seasonal nature into account. Opium is also seasonal. Marijuana can be grown hydroponically as well as the old-fashioned way. It was probably obvious that there was far more than could ever be considered to be for personal use, and anyone could say that it was for their own use, no matter how enormous the amount was.

      Reply
      • “The law can’t take the seasonal nature into account”

        Why on earth not? It’s not compulsory for the law to be an ass.

        Reply
        • Mike C

           /  8th August 2015

          @AlanW

          Why are you taking this subject so passionately and deeply into your heart?

          Reply
        • I just believe it has caused so much unnecessary harm to so many people, Mike. I remember a University debate back in the late sixties between a psychology professor and a U.S. trained criminologist about the law changes the U.S. under Nixon was pushing hard on the rest of the world including NZ to implement his War on Drugs. There was no question the psychologist won the debate hands down describing the harm it would cause and the futility of the approach. But the government succumbed to the U.S. pressure and implemented the draconian drug laws the U.S. demanded. The consequence has been everything the professor predicted and then some. NZ has gone from having a few harmless old Chinese opium smokers and stoned hippies to having a criminal gang culture living off a vast drug culture and an unstoppable addict crime wave. Only an ignorant moron could not be angry about the stupidity that has caused and maintained it. And neither I nor any of my family have ever been drug users.

          Reply
          • @AW Well said !
            you say ‘neither I nor any of my family have ever been drug users’ – I’m guessing you mean ‘illegal drugs’ OR all drugs (including Alcohol, Tobacco – probably the most harmful) ?

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  9th August 2015

              Yes, alcohol the only recreational drug used.

  5. Mike C

     /  8th August 2015

    @George

    Did the husband get prosecuted as well, or did the woman carry the can on behalf of both of them? Perhaps she and the hubbie thought that if she put her hand up for it, then the Judge and Jury would go a lot easier on her, because she is a woman.

    Also, violent home invasions are fairly rare, but often involve gangs, which makes me wonder if there is far more to this situation than meets the public eye.

    Reply
    • “Van Gaalen’s husband originally faced the same charge. It was dropped when she said the cannabis was all hers. ”

      There certainly could be more to it, that thought wet through my mind. But I’m guided by the judge being very troubled by the sentence but bound by consistency.

      Reply
    • Rob

       /  8th August 2015

      Jasper doesn’t smoke. He didn’t know where the cannabis was and he didn’t grow it. He was beaten and tortured to supply that info to the gangsters. That Kelly smokes and wasn’t needing to get it from said gangsters is hard to keep quite in a small town.

      Reply
      • Mike C

         /  8th August 2015

        @Rob

        If Kelly was supplying 20 or so people in Kaikohe, and Kelly and her friends didn’t keep their mouths shut, then I imagine the gang members would have been very pissed off.

        The Van Gaalens put their children’s lives in danger, and it is a wonder they haven’t both been charged with Child Endangerment.

        Reply
      • kittycatkin

         /  8th August 2015

        Beaten and tortured ? By whom ? Why ?

        Reply
        • Mike C

           /  8th August 2015

          @Kitty

          I think you may have hit the nail on the head with regards to the “20 close friends” and the “beating and torture”. I reckon that there is far more to this case than meets the eye 😉

          Reply
  6. Yes well… It is astounding we are even having this debate. I agree that there certainly could be more to it. Others face the same charges, but got them dropped when she put her hand up.

    However, it is hardly the same as stealing millions from old ladies pension schemes (and getting home detention for it)……

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  8th August 2015

      Unless there really is such a person who did this and was given home detention, this is a poor argument. Is there really a pension scheme only for old ladies, and who stole millions from it ?

      Whether or not one agrees with a law, it’s still the law.

      Reply
      • Okay. How about hundreds of millions stolen from mainly old age people via their retirement schemes and getting a two year (or less) prison sentence served then?

        Jeezus. Does anyone see the point without need for OTT technicalities? Unless you have been dead for twenty years and never heard of drugs, capitalism or old ladies losing their life savings to arseholes who get easier sentences, then I give up.

        Waste of time, this whole thing.

        Reply
  7. Mike C

     /  8th August 2015

    One thing I am completely certain of, is that she is definitely a long-term user … because only a total stoner would volunteer to carry the can for their spouse or grow plants right outside their back door. LOL.

    Reply
  8. That’s what you get when you go the Crown for protection.

    Reply
    • Mike C

       /  8th August 2015

      @Ugly

      Jasper Van Gaalen didn’t ask the Police to come. He has his neighbour’s to thank for phoning the Police 🙂

      I am sure Van Gaalen wouldn’t have been in a hurry to phone the Cops, knowing that there was a bucket of dope inside his home and a couple of plants at the door to greet the police when they arrived. LOL.

      Reply
  9. 2 years seems a lot but if that is the law- she should have known better. Well known folk need to be sentenced just like ordinary folk. Just because there were no receipts to prove payment doesn’t mean that she didn’t barter though does it?

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  8th August 2015

      In East Lynne, a Victorian novel, an aristocrat’s lawyer argues that someone of his social standing should not be treated as harshly by the law as other people. The judge said that someone from such a background had far less of an excuse and gave him the death penalty as he would have anyone else who’d done the crime.

      Reply
    • Bill

       /  10th August 2015

      I don’t think this had anything to do with her being well known Ann. more to do with her being well respected by her community. Just goes to show Cannabis users can be well liked and respected members of society ,who would have thought.

      Reply
  10. this is called : ‘Justice-NZ style’ (B-S) its 2015.. NOT 1975 !
    Its time Aotearoa/NZ got in, with most of the OECD..
    “What do we want ? DRUG LAW REFORM.. when do we want it ? NOW !!” 😦

    Reply
    • Mike C

       /  8th August 2015

      @Zedd

      If the amount of cannabis found inside the house had been clearly only for personal use, then I honestly believe that she would have received either home detention or community service or possibly even got off with just a fine or suspended sentence.

      The problem for the jurors, was the fact that the amount of marijuana the Police discovered, was in keeping with the supply of drugs to others.

      Mrs Van Gaalen admitted that she intended to give the marijuana to other people, and by doing so, she pretty much shot herself in the foot 😦

      Reply
  11. Alan Wilkinson

     /  8th August 2015

    The war on drugs is an abomination that has caused infinitely more harm than it has prevented. Sickening stupidity that no person of conscience and intelligence should be a party to either prosecuting or enforcing. This is exactly the kind of issue that means I could never work or fight for the state.

    Reply
  12. how’s this for consistency, if these 2 can be let off with a wet bus ticket
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10893337

    yet again NZ (in)justice system proves that enforcement is more harmful than the “drug” which is MEDICINE for so many.

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  8th August 2015

      When my friends and I smoked it at university, we weren’t using it as medicine. .

      Reply
      • Female Dorm

         /  8th August 2015

        When my friends and I smoked it at Uni, we were using it as an aphrodisiac 🙂

        Reply
      • Bill

         /  10th August 2015

        Yeah that’s right, but it was a medicine long before it became fashionable as a recreational drug. The fact was, that the Governments of the time tried to remove that information from University libraries around the world as a consequence of the War on Drugs .

        Reply
  13. There is an online petition : http://www.change.org/p/new-zealand-parliament-free-kelly-van-gaalen

    I accept that she ‘broke the law’ BUT is it the ‘law that is broke’ & needs fixing ?

    Even the judge said there was NO evidence of her selling it.. maybe she was just giving it to friends & using herself ??

    Reply
    • Mike C

       /  8th August 2015

      @Zedd

      I agree with you that the laws surrounding cannabis desperately require some major overhauling and revision.

      My sympathy lies with the three children right now, because their parents made a stupid mistake.

      If I grew my own marijuana, I certainly would not have it sitting in a bucket like that. I would store it in a water proof container, and bury it outside 🙂

      Reply
    • Bill

       /  10th August 2015

      I can totally believe this situation, not every Cannabis user places high values per gram on this easy to grow plant, they enjoy the like minded social interaction it brings and on seeing how respected this woman is in her community, my feelings are this was more than evident and I think the judge new it as well.

      Reply
  14. In NZ sharing with no financial gain is still supply :-/ This is exactly the kind of social dealing the law com (report:controlling and regulating drugs) stated should not be a crime.

    @Mike C
    FYI approx. price of cannabis in NZ
    A tinny house (the dearest way to buy cannabis) – approx. 1gm for $20
    Non tinny house, social dealer/home grower. 1.2 – 2gm for $20
    Ounce $200-380
    Pound $2500-4000
    Jail $92,500 per year

    Reply
    • Mike C

       /  8th August 2015

      @Ann

      28gm x 24 = 672gms

      672gms x $10 = $6,720.00

      672gms x $20 = $13,440.00

      That’s a big bucket of money 🙂

      Reply
      • And that is exactly why the law on drugs has not only failed but supported a vast number of criminal empires and lifestyles.

        Reply
        • Mike C

           /  8th August 2015

          @AlanW

          It would appear that the War and Law on Drugs is working very well here in NZ 🙂

          Our Police are doing their job very well … so what more can we ask of them?

          Reply
          • You mean by achieving one of the worst levels of P addiction in the world together with one of the highest rates of incarceration?

            Or do you have some other measure of satisfaction?

            Reply
            • Mike C

               /  8th August 2015

              @AlanW

              See Below …

            • Mike C

               /  8th August 2015

              @AlanW

              Do you perceive there to be any difference between Meth and Marijuana?

            • It’d take some effort to persuade me to bother answering that question. Particularly as you haven’t answered mine.

          • Bill

             /  9th August 2015

            The WAR ON DRUGS isn’t working well anywhere in the world Mike, this argument is being played out in almost every country, America has lost this War and now it’s time for our troops to stand down.
            This is a classic example of how Wars always end up hurting women and children. People who choose to use Cannabis for what ever reason are not the enemy Mike, to declare anyone an enemy of the state for this, is like declaring War on Lager drinkers or men who drink wine, yeah right you know who are. Having been of drinking age in the seventies in Dunedin, I can tell you that you could find yourself getting your head kicked in for not choosing the right brand of Beer to drink.

            Reply
      • jaspa

         /  9th August 2015

        @ Mike C

        “28gm x 24 = 672gms

        672gms x $10 = $6,720.00 … ”

        Or, she smokes 2 grams a day = an ounce a fortnight – she had a year’s supply, providing she doesn’t smoke more than a couple of joints a day and doesn’t share any with friends.

        Given that in July she would have been looking at 9-10 months until another harvest is ready, this seems to be a reasonable personal amount for a daily smoker.

        Reply
        • Mike C

           /  9th August 2015

          @Jaspa

          Yeah … but she said that she WAS going to “share” it with about 20 friends. It just seems strange to me that the three gang members couldn’t find the bucket of weed, but the Police did. I can’t help but think that there is far more to this story than meets the public eye.

          Reply
          • jaspa

             /  9th August 2015

            @ Mike C,

            Yes, I do agree with that. But regardless, it does seem to me that if the stuff was legal then the gangs and violence would be out of the equation.

            Reply
  15. Mike C

     /  8th August 2015

    @Kitty

    I have not been able to find any argument with your logic.

    It is quite feasible that this couple may have been dealing drugs.

    Most drug dealers have a separate phone to their private one to organize their dealings with customers (which they destroy and replace the SIM cards of regularly) which would explain why no evidence of drug dealing was found on her phone.

    Twenty or more regular paying customers per week would turn over a bit of coin 🙂

    Reply
  16. Wow a hot topic today, the problem with NZ law is the threshold for deing considered a dealer means anyone caught with a fresh harvest is a dealer, the threshold is 1 ounce, 28 grams, yet any muppet with some gardening skills can get a 300gm + harvest from 1 plant.

    The threshold needs to be removed from law, being charged with cannabis for supply should put the onus on the prosecution to prove dealing was taking place.

    6 Months after I moved in to my house, which we chose due to the ACC renovations done for the previous owner who had several spine surgeries, I discovered a 2 square meter grow room under the house (our house is built into the side of the hill) If the previous owner was caught with 3-4 plants at harvest time, I would hope they would be treated quite differently by the courts than this case.

    Reply
  17. Mike C

     /  9th August 2015

    @AlanW

    We need to prevent the Methamphetamine from being manufactured in the first place, rather than just locking people up in jail for making it, or in a mental health facility after they’ve already become addicts.

    I think that rewards for information leading to the shutting down of P-Labs would be a great incentive to people in the community to dob the meth-makers in 🙂

    Methamphetamine is costing our country a fortune, so it would be much cheaper to offer cash rewards than to have to pay the cost of trying to clean up the addicts … not to mention the fact that there would be less crime in general if we could get rid of most of the P-Labs.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  9th August 2015

      Doesn’t work. Never has. If there is demand there will be supply.

      Reply
      • Mike C

         /  9th August 2015

        @AlanW

        So what are your suggestions to solve the Meth problems in New Zealand?

        Reply
  18. Great to see honest, open discussion people !
    The way to move forward (my thoughts) :
    1) decriminalise personal use (no strict limits on ‘reasonable’ amount) & focus on black-market ‘commercial’ dealers/gangsters etc.
    2) move the focus from ‘law enforcement’ to treatment (without the fear of criminal prosecution, for users)
    3) consider implementing a legal regulated market for cannabis (as in other OECD countries, similar to current system with Alcohol) This will diminish of the ‘issue’ of Synthetics etc. (most would prefer the ‘natural herb’)
    4) STOP just brushing it under the carpet, because the loudest voices are still those ‘on the moral high ground’ – Police, Judiciary & most Politicians : allow the rest to be heard.as well. Until now there has been just ‘hui’ BUT no further ‘Dui’ (action to change)
    5) Drug addiction is an illness NOT a criminal offence.. should be treated as such

    Cheers my dears 🙂

    Reply
    • Bill

       /  9th August 2015

      I would also add, we as a society need to acknowledge Cannabis use and not just Cannabis abuse, all Cannabis use is currently defined under law as abuse, like with Alcohol use not everybody’s an Alcoholic.
      Cannabis isn’t our second most popular substance of choice due to addition, it’s because many people enjoy its use. How can anybody who enjoys a drink with friends condone anyone being put in jail for not anymore than, a bit of mental masturbation.

      Reply
  19. Bill

     /  9th August 2015

    No one should be in jail for Cannabis, NO ONE!!!!
    No ones in jail for Alcohol, there’s people in jail for crimes committed while on Alcohol and in these cases there’s usually a clear victim, Who’s the victim here? This woman and her family that’s who,victims of a bad law that only the very closed minded or politically motivated in our society could condone as being of any benefit, the only clear message this sends, is our system is broken. I think this Judge may be telling us that, just as the law commission already has and made a special point as to social dealing among friends, which is worlds apart from a gang tinny house, where it is worth $20 a gram.

    Reply
  20. James

     /  13th August 2015

    Anyone willing selling to me ? 😀

    Reply
  1. Thoughts on dealing with dysfunctional cannabis law | Your NZ
  2. Brown slams van Gaalen prison sentence | Your NZ

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