Kaikohe head girl: locally-led approach best

One of the most forthright, sensible and mature responses to the problems in Kaikohe come from Northland College head girl Aroha Lawrence who said ‘When you’re from Kaikohe people don’t expect much’ (RNZ):

…she knew some of the young people involved at the weekend.

Some came from good homes while others came from broken homes, but they were united in that they had all grown up in Kaikohe and had to deal with any stigma that came with that.

“When you’re from Kaikohe people don’t expect much of you, so you don’t have really big expectations for yourself,” Miss Lawrence said.

“People just think you’re another Māori statistic that’s just going to go on the dole.”

It did not help that there was not much to do in the town, she said.

“A lot of the kids here, they just go hang out at The Mill, which is our local gym. Or just do what those young boys were doing – going around vandalising properties and robbing shops and robbing homes. Because, I don’t know, I guess they think that’s fun because there’s nothing really else to do in Kaikohe.”

Something needed to change but a locally-led approach was best, she said.

However, the same things happened in other towns and cities too and it was important to remember there were a lot of good young people in Kaikohe too, Miss Lawrence said.

“There’s a lot of us that are trying to, you know, make something better for ourselves or make something better for Kaikohe. They shouldn’t judge us by a few rotten eggs.”

There has always been problems with bored young people in rural towns. Kaikohe is in central Northland and has a population of about four and a half thousand.

While Government and Police can and should help the best solutions must come from the locals. It’s their town that their children are trashing.

Alcohol abuse seems to be a big part of the problem. That’s nothing new, but solutions may need to take new approaches.

Corporal punishment proposed after Kaikohe rampage

More police and corporal punishment are suggested solutions after a rampage in Kaikohe.

NZ Herald: Police nab one teen after rampage in Kaikohe

The weekend’s trouble started on Friday when about half a dozen youths walked into The Shed liquor store on Marino Court and walked out with about 10 boxes of beer.

Police tracked them to a party on Shaw St but with just two officers, and the adults at the party defending the youths, there was little they could do, Taylor said.

At about 1am on Saturday, a group of about 20 youngsters tried to break into the Mobil service station.

Taylor said the group was like “a pack of deranged animals” trying to kick in the doors and throwing rocks at the glass.

They did not get in but caused about $1000 of damage to the iwi-owned service station.

Taylor said there weren’t enough police in the district to handle such situations.

People are understandably concerned and frustrated but it is simply not feasible to have enough police numbers available in small towns around the clock to deal with occasional incidents like this.

At the time of the attempted break-in at Mobil, police were attending incidents in Waipapa, Kerikeri and Kawakawa, as well as a crash at Oromahoe.

A sergeant and one other officer were in Kaikohe and police reached the service station three minutes after the first 111 call, Symonds said.

There will always be times that the police struggle to cope, especially with major incidents in relatively remote areas.

On Friday night most staff were deployed to Paihia and Kerikeri because that was where problems were expected.

And they can’t accurately guess where the problems will occur.

A 13-year-old has been apprehended by police after a group of youths – some thought to be as young as 11 – went on a rampage; helping themselves to boxes of beer from a liquor store and trying to smash their way into a service station.

The ages of those involved must be a real worry.

Radio NZ: Bring back corporal punishment in schools – National rep

The chair of the National Party’s Kaikohe branch, Alan Price, said systems were not in place to deal with growing drug use and young people running riot in his town and others.

“Whilst we need more police, there’s a bigger underlying problem here,” he said.

Mr Price told Morning Report the solution was to put corporal punishment back into schools.

Though the do-gooders would not like it, something needed to be done, he said.

“You can’t raise children without discipline and we’re getting into the situation where we’ve got an uncontrollable rat race that you can’t do anything with in this country.

“Until we stand up to it and do something about it and change the law that means you can discipline somebody for something they do wrong – to me it is a form of child abuse not to raise a child with discipline.”

Discipline – yes, but the country has moved on from using physical violence to try and teach children not to be violent.

I don’t know what Price’s party connections were highlighted, this is presumably his person reaction, not party policy.

The MP for Northland, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, said the catch-and-release principle for young offenders had to change if youth crime in the area was to be curbed.

He said the number of charges had fallen despite a rise in criminal offences. “If you’re going to have discipline, then you’ve going to have to ensure that rather than have a catch and release policy, like some game fishing outfit, we actually charge these people with crimes, and we’re not doing it.”

Is Peters suggesting catch and imprison?

Once again people are rushing to offer simplistic solutions to complex problems.

The Kaikohe community needs to work together on how to address this problem. Their youths were vandalising their own community’s property.


Brown slams van Gaalen prison sentence

Russell Brown at Public Address has slammed the two year prison sentence imposed on Kelly van Gaalen, and pointed out that Judge McDonald’s claim that “he had to be consistent with sentences imposed for other, similar offences” is highly disputable – it looks to be quite inconsistent.

Judicial caprice is no way to pursue law and order

Last week’s news that Kaikohe community leader Kelly van Gaalen had been sentenced to two years prison in the Whangarei District Court for possession of cannabis from two plants, with no evidence of commercial supply, has rightly and understandably caused outrage.

(Caprice: an impulsive change of mind, a sudden or unpredictable change of attitude, behaviour etc, etch; whim).

Some of that outrage was expressed here: More than just a troubling sentence.

Van Gaalen was charged after her husband, home alone at the time, was the victim of a violent home invasion in July last year. After he was able to raise the alarm, police arrived – and found the pot.

Charges against Mr van Gaalen were dropped when his wife took responsibility for the cannabis and said it was hers. Her claim that it came from two plants, one of which had gone particularly well that summer, is quite plausible. It’s notable that the police did not report what they found as cannabis heads. I’ll go out on a limb and guess this was not groomed, commercial marijuana and that most of it was some cabbage in a bucket.

Careless to leave something like that around but no evidence it was a commercial stash.

As Jack Tame notes in the Herald, the police presumably had the option to ”use discretion and destroy the drugs”, which might have been reasonable in the circumstances. But they laid a prosecution of possession for supply. Crown prosecutor Catherine Gisler then asked the judge to jail van Gaalen for three years, saying deterrence was important. Perhaps both parties felt it was not their place to exercise discretion.

But in our system it is certainly the place of the judge.

Brown quotes from the herald:

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 …

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.

And Brown slams that.

This is, simply, bullshit.

We don’t even need to search for convictions for violent and anti-social offences which have attracted lesser sentences, although there are too many of those to count. We can look at how another judge in the Whangarei High Court was able to exercise discretion in the case of a man who actually was busted in for commercial supply of cannabis.

From the Herald on that case:

Phillips, 49, appeared for sentencing in the High Court at Whangarei before Justice Paul Heath after earlier pleading guilty to six charges of selling cannabis and six of possessing cannabis for supply.

Crown prosecutor Catherine Anderson asked for a starting point of three years’ jail with six months added for Phillips’ previous drug convictions, which went back over 20 years.

“When you came into court your two boys went over spontaneously to greet you. It was very clear to me the nature of your relationship with them,” Justice Heath said.

“It’s clear you did a very good job raising your children. But on the other hand you behave like this, in a manner that shows you lack control of yourself.”

He said the reaction of Phillips’ sons and Mr Blaikie’s submissions had persuaded him by the narrowest of margins to give Phillips another opportunity to turn his life around.

So he got home detention despite previous convictions and despite pleading guilty to selling cannabis.

Brown cites two more cases:

In the same week as van Gaalen was sentenced to jail, in Westport, Ian Alfred Cole, who was convicted of cultivating cannabis and possessing it for supply (in considerably greater quantities than van Gaalen had) was sentenced only to home detention. Cole was caught with all the trappings of commercial supply and had pleaded not guilty. He also had LSD in his possession.

In 2011, Judge McDonald himself sentenced a couple who admitted cultivation and supply (not only of cannabis, but party pills) to only six months’ home detention.

Brown’s criticism is unusually strong for him:

Judge McDonald’s claim that his hands were tied in van Gaalen’s case was not only risible and untrue, it was cowardly.

‘Cowardly’ seems like an odd term, but McDonald’s sentence and reasoning in the van Gaalen case is certainly highly questionable.

And how the Police and the Courts deal with cannabis law and offending is highly questionable. At the least it seems very inconsistent, and at the worst it is simply not working.

While van Gaalen has borne the brunt of Judge McDonald’s heavy handedness (for now) the Judge has put the spotlight on the stupidity of our drug laws. Was this inadvertent or deliberate?

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.