Hell, Pell

Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has gone right to the top, nearly. Cardinal George Pell haas just been imprisoned in Australia.

Stuff:  Cardinal George Pell spending his first night in jail for sexually abusing choirboys

Cardinal George Pell has been taken into custody and will spend his first night in a jail cell for sexually abusing two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral.

Pell was found guilty in December of orally raping a 13-year-old boy and molesting another after Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne in 1996.

He became the highest-ranking Catholic to be convicted of such crimes.

Pell’s defence team submitted 10 character references, including from former Australian prime minister John Howard.

“These people love him; none of them believe he is capable of these offences,” Richter said.

Richter said Pell was a man of the “highest character”.

“He relates to everyone from a prime minister to street beggars,” he said.

It’s not how he relates to ex Prime Ministers that’s at issue here, it’s how he related to choir boys.

“Cardinal George Pell has not applied for bail today,” lawyer Paul Galbally said in a statement.

“He believes it is appropriate for him to await his sentencing.

“Despite the unprecedented media coverage, Cardinal Pell has always and continues to maintain his innocence.”

His lawyers have lodged an appeal on three grounds, including that the jury verdict was unreasonable.

Robert Richter QC has argued his alleged offending was at the low end of the scale.

“This is no more than a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case where a child is not volunteering or actively participating,” he said.

What the hell?

Richter also said a “temporary loss of judgment” could not be ruled out.

But Judge Kidd pushed back, saying Pell had engaged in shocking conduct that allowed no “innocent explanation”.

“At the moment I see this as callous, brazen offending. Blatant,” the judge said.

“It leaves to me only one inference, which is at the time he thought he was going to get away with it.

He nearly did. He did for a long time. Protected by his power in a sexually corrupt Catholic Church.

More support proposed for released prisoners

Currently prisoners are released from prison with $350, only if they have photo ID. Immediate job prospects for many of them will be poor. It must be difficult to get set up and survive. It must be easy for them to quickly go back to old acquaintances and old habits, with a high chance of reoffending.

60% of prisoners are re-convicted within two years of release – but they will start re-offending sooner, possibly much sooner. And this only measures those who get caught.

NZ Herald: Released prisoners set up to fail due to poor support – justice advisory group

The Government is being urged to increase the amount of money it gives prisoners when they are released – if it wants them to stay out of jail.

The head of an advisory group on justice reforms said a payment of just $350 was setting prisoners up to fail, and many of them couldn’t even access it.

Chester Borrows, a former National Party Minister and chair of the Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group, wants the payment to double.

He said poor support was a major factor contributing to a high rate of reoffending.

Doubling it to $700 may not make much difference. You can’t survive for long on that.

The group will make recommendations to the Government to improve the criminal justice system – described by Justice Minister Andrew Little as “broken” – in an interim report in March, and a final report in August.

Little told the Herald he looked forward to the reports, but agreed that released prisoners needed more support.

Released prisoners can only get the $350, called the Steps to Freedom grant, if they have photo ID to set up a bank account. Many ex-prisoners did not have this, Borrows said.

“That’s supposed to give them accommodation and keep them fed for two weeks until their first benefit or pay packet”.

“If you’ve got to rent a room, you’ve got to pay a bond and usually a couple of week’s rent in advance – how are you going to do that? And you’re coming out with nothing in your cupboards. How much are two weeks’ groceries?

“And if they keep you in Christchurch because there’s no room in the Auckland Prison, and then release you in Christchurch and don’t pay for you to get home, how does that person get back to their family support? You would have to say that these people are set up to fail.”

I suspect that some people will not support ‘hand outs’ for crims, but the alternative, returning to a life of crime and ending up in prison again, will be a lot more expensive, and not just through the cost of incarceration but also the cost of crime to yhe public.


Bill Cosby sentenced to prison, counselling for life

After being found guilt of drugging and sexually assaulting a victim Bill Cosby has been sentenced to prison and lifetime counselling. The victim is just one of many woman who have claimed that Cosby assaulted them.

RNZ:  Bill Cosby sentenced to prison for sex assault

Cosby, 81, has also been categorised as a sexually violent predator, meaning he must undergo counselling for life and be listed on the sex offender registry.

At a retrial in April, Cosby was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand in 2004.

Ahead of the sentence, Judge Steven O’Neill designated Cosby a sexually violent predator, despite the defence’s argument that Cosby’s age and blindness mean he is not a threat.

Tuesday’s classification means he will need to register with state police and notify any community he lives in of his sex offender status, as well as undergo mandatory counselling for life.

The actor’s defence team had argued the state’s sex offender law was too severe given Cosby’s age and the fact that he is legally blind.

The comedian was arrested in 2015 and a deadlocked jury resulted in a mistrial in June 2017.

This year’s retrial occurred amid the #MeToo movement that has seen people worldwide come forward to share stories of sexual harassment and assault.

Justice has been served to some extent on an alleged long term serial offender.

Q+A: Justice Minister “what we are doing isn’t working”

Justice Minister Andrew Little was interviewed on Q+A last night.

Andrew Little: after 30 years of tough on crime policy, the reoffending rate has stayed the same, “it’s not making us safe”

“We have to change the public debate on what we do with criminals”.

“If we are doing it right there will be more people leaving prison who have been helped and don’t reoffend.”

“It is not right that we’ve had a 30% increase in our prison population in the last 5 years.”

“No we haven’t got agreement from NZ First to get rid of 3 strikes law.”

Andrew Little: can’t rule out the possibility of systemic racism in the justice system

“Just the humanity of it means we have to do something different”.

“What we are doing right now isn’t working”.

I doubt anyone will argue that New Zealand’s incarceration rate is a problem, and that deterrents and reoffending rates and rehabilitation need to be seriously reviewed.

What is missing from the interview highlights (from @NZQandA) are solutions. That’s the tricky bit.

A review of the judicial system is under way. Hopefully that will come up with some good suggestions.

One problem is that a substantial up front investment will probably be required.

The growing number of prisoners has to be dealt with, and that is costly.

But much more resources are required for prevention and rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners after they are released. If these are done much better it should lead to lowering imprisonment rates, eventually.

Many prisoners are the result of long term problems, often intergenerational. Poor upbringings, lack of education and low skills making well paid employment difficult to get all contribute to resorting to crime.

Drug laws have worked poorly and contribute to a lot of crime.

Violence is a huge problem, it is a deeply entrenched issue in New Zealand society. It will be very challenging confronting and addressing this successfully, but it is an investment in effort and money that benefit us all if it works for the better.


“Remand or Bust?” – the prison problem

From a comment by Gezza:

A single legal change has caused massive growth in the prison muster.

Growth in New Zealand’s prison population accelerated from around 8500 in 2014 to around 10,500 in 2016

The recent spike can be traced back to changes to bail laws in 2013. Since then, people charged with violent, sex or drug crimes have to prove they pose no danger to the community to get bail. If they can’t, they stay behind bars.

The changes followed public shock over the 2011 killing of 18-year-old Christie Marceau. Her killer Akshay Anand Chand was on bail when he killed her. Chand was found not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.

When the bail law was changed, Labour said it was “a fairly soft measure” which would require a further 50 prison beds.

In fact, the number of prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing has almost doubled. And our prisons are bursting at the seams. It leaves Justice Minister Andrew Little with a tough decision. Roll back popular changes to the bail laws or build another expensive prison

“There’s no question our prison system is in chaos, and in crisis, at the moment” says Justice Minister Andrew Little, He says the Government has got to fix it up – and quickly. According to Mr Little Cabinet right now is looking at a number of ideas from both the Minister of Corrections, Kelvin Davis and the Minister of Police, Stuart Nash and he’s going to put some up as Minister of Justice.”


Difficult to deal with huge increase in prisoner numbers

Politicians have been pandering to populist pleas for getting tough on criminals for decades, but they now face some hard decisions after the prison population has surged.

Our prisons can’t cope with the record number of prisoners, now about 10,500, and there don’t appear to be any easy or quick fixes.

Meanwhile the Government keeps delaying a decision on building a new prison, and has set up yet another working group to kick the can down the road.

Stuff: Make-shift cells in the gym, stretchers in the hallway – a broken prison system

In early May, there were 10,570 prisoners in the system; a number that fluctuates on a daily basis, due to arrests, court decisions and releases.

The population rose above 10,000 for the first time in 2016, and has continued to climb since then. It has risen more than 20 per cent since 2015.

A big part of the problem is a near doubling of the number of remand prisoners over the last five years. From 2009-2013 remand numbers ranged from 1,555-1,925, but there are now over 3,000.

While significant that is only a part of the problem. The prison population has nearly doubled over the past twenty years.

There are no easy answers.

Stuff: Govt stuck between a rock and a hard place on law and order

The Labour-led Government is caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to its big promises on law and order reform.

The Labour-led Government has promised to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent in 15 years, something Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says will take the full 15 years.

But with an almost static crime rate, that means changing the laws that have led to the spike in prisoner numbers.

An overhaul of the justice system is unlikely to be popular political move. The last thing any Government wants is to look soft on crime.

The Opposition has been applying pressure on this. Like:

It’s understood the Government plans to establish another working group, and hold a summit later in the year, ahead of announcing any major legislative changes.

Yet another working group. They will need to decide on whether to proceed with a new prison at Waikeria long before that reports back.

The Government can tinker around the edges when it comes to providing things like transitional housing for people due for parole with no place to go, but that will only slightly lighten the load on prisons.

To deliver on its promise of 30 per cent fewer prisoners, and to be the truly “transitional Government” it says it will be, bail laws, parole laws, and sentencing are all under scrutiny. But this gives its National opposition ammunition when it comes to its “soft of crime” attacks.

The Labour-led Government will either have to find a way to weather those attacks and get its coalition partners onside, or accept an out-of-control muster, and build the mega-prison none of them want.

Numbers will keep rising while the Government fiddles.


Waikeria prison decision deferred again

Some work has started on a controversial new prison at Waikeria, but no announcement has yet been made on what is being built.

On 29 March (Stuff) Andrew Little confirms decision on Waikeria within two weeks

Justice Minister Andrew Little has confirmed a decision will be made regarding the future of Waikeria prison within two weeks.

The Government originally promised to make the decision by the end of March but are pushing the deadline to mid-April.

Mr Little has previously said on Newshub Nation he wants to shift justice policy towards rehabilitation in order to lower prison numbers, saying what he saw when visiting Waikeria Prison “horrified him”.

“You have to ask yourself whether this is a place where someone can go from being bad to being good.”

Mr Little said he remained open to the idea of amending bail laws, which Labour previously supported tightening, but says there was no specific plan in place to change them

The Minister said within two or three months there would be a “high profile summit on criminal justice issues to get public debate going”.

Prison populations are projected to soar to over 12,000 by 2022.

Nearly four weeks later still no announcement but some work has started: Otorohanga still hoping for Waikeria prison expansion

Preparatory work has begun at the Waikeria prison site in the King Country, even though the Government has still not decided if it will go ahead with the expansion.

The Department of Corrections said that despite putting the expansion decision on ice, the Government agreed for Corrections to continue some preparatory work at Waikeria while options were considered.

Last Wednesday, Justice Minister Andrew Little said a decision on the “mega prison” would be made public within the next few weeks.

Another few weeks. The prison poses a dilemma for the Government, who have pledged to slash prison numbers but that will take time, and they are currently faced with having to deal with a growing prison population.

There are important legal considerations, as well as finding the money from a budget under pressure to deliver on election pledges.

Waatea News earlier this month: Waikeria decision sparks letter campaign

Campaign group Action Station says 1300 supporters have written letters to Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis urging them to stop the new billion-dollar prison in Waikeria.

Action Station director Laura O’Connell Rapira says the community are passionate about supporting efforts to build a more compassionate justice system which prioritises prevention, restoration and rehabilitation, and an end to the over-incarceration of Maori people.

She says while the Government is concerned about the state of prisons and wants to end double-bunking, a new prison will inevitably fail in terms of reducing crime.

But in the short term growing numbers have to be housed.

There may be no real choice but to build a prison at Waikeria, but if plans are to substantially reduce the prison population this would be a good opportunity to take a radical new approach to prisons, especially in relation to the disproportionate number of Māori prisoners.

If it doesn’t work, then it can be scrapped as numbers are reduced, and if it does work well then older traditional prison space can be scrapped.

But there is an indication a different approach is not being considered.

RNZ: Govt yet to pursue idea of separate Māori prison

The Corrections Minister has not looked to advance an idea he pushed while in opposition, to establish a separate Māori prison.

And a decision on whether to build a new $1 billion prison at Waikeria in rural Waikato is still pending – a month after Kelvin Davis said a final decision would be made.

As Labour’s opposition spokesperson, Mr Davis argued prisoner numbers could be reduced through rehabilitation programmes in a prison run on a kaupapa Māori based approach.

In February this year, he said he was not ruling anything in or out, when asked whether he’d be progressing any units or prisons based on a Māori-only model.

Last week, in a response to an official information request, Mr Davis said while he had been looking at strategies to reduce Māori offending, he had received no advice about a separate Māori prison.

He said he was committed to reducing the prison population by 30 percent over the next 15 years and “addressing the issue of Māori over representation” in prisons.

“I am working with staff, non-government and Māori organisations and communities to meet this challenge and make a meaningful change for all prisoners, including Māori,” Mr Davis said in a letter to RNZ.

It seems odd that Davis hasn’t been looking at Māori-only model, or a Māori-focussed model, while a decision is being made about the Waikeria prison expansion.

It could be something to do with this:

Mr Davis floated the idea of a separate Māori prison last year, as a way of reducing the prison population, a proposal shut down by the party’s leader at the time, Andrew Little.

Davis may have ditched his proposal, or it may have been ditched for him.

The Government can’t keep pushing out a new prison decision for ‘a few weeks’. They will probably have to commit funds in the budget in three weeks. We may find out then whether a Waikeria will be just more of the same, or something bold and different.

Justice reform

Today’s ODT editorial looks at plans for justice reform – in particular, looking at ways to turn around the growth in prison population.

Justice Minister Andrew Little is embarking on a task which is sure to divide New Zealand, as most people have strong views on prisons, probation and sentences.

Mr Little, who is already developing into one of the Government’s most considered ministers, is proposing reform to the country’s criminal justice system and a rejection of “getting tough on crime”, a view long-held by many politicians and voters.

In the past, judges have been criticised for being too lenient  with  repeat offenders. Some of those on bail have gone on to commit horrific crimes even as they await trial. On those occasions public opinion swings behind law and order groups, calling on judges to impose the maximum sentences allowed. The calls for offenders to be denied bail to prevent them from reoffending grow louder.

Mr Little sees things differently and his vision has been  called the boldest political move in criminal justice since former justice minister Ralph Hannan convinced his National Party colleagues to abolish the death penalty in 1961.

There are many studies showing the benefits of a lower prison population, and not all of them are financial.

Mr Little says the rapid rise in prison numbers follows 30 years of public policy-making, and public discourse, that says New Zealand needs tougher sentences, more sentencing, more people serving longer sentences and the criminalising of more behaviour.

The major challenge is convincing the public what has been done for 30 years in criminal justice reform is not working. Violent offending is, in fact, increasing.

The pledge by Mr Little comes at a time when the Department of Corrections is facing major problems in housing the nearly 10,700 prisoners already incarcerated. There is room only for another 300.

Mr Little has taken on an admirable challenge by providing his vision for the justice system. He will need considerable strength to overcome the prejudicial views of a sceptical public.

‘ Tough on crime’, increasing the number of police officers and increasing sentences have been politically popular for some time, but they have not been notably successful.

I hope that Little includes a review of failed drug laws and considers alternatives to the current mess.

To car killer: “young men shouldn’t be behind the wheel “

A 19 years old man (if he can be called that) has been jailed after killing a man and maiming a woman in a car crash last year. He shouldn’t have been driving, he shouldn’t have been texting, and he acted appallingly and without remorse afterwards.

From ‘CoodGunt’ at Reddit – Judge Kim Saunders:”young men should not be behind the wheel of a vehicle.”

She is bang out of order. Imagine the headlines if a male judge said that about young female drivers instead.

And from fitzroy95:

Making rash judgement about entire groups of people and not specific people makes you a pile of shit, and a fucking awful judge.

A response from MrCyn:

Context, he lied about the reason for the crash by blaming it on his breaks, but he was texting. Was driving on a disqualified leareer licence with other teenagers in the car, didn’t turn up to police meetings and probation meetings and was caught driving again

But it was an evident lack of remorse that left Judge Kim Saunders apparently stunned as she sentenced Hannon McGinn.

“You are a poster child for why young men should not be behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is a lethal weapon,” she said.

Saunders said she struggled to understand why he had driven again after having been found guilty at the trial.

“I have no idea what on earth you were thinking, that it was your right to continue to drive.”

The Stuff report seems to have a changed headline: Killer driver’s lack of remorse shocks judge

A teenaged driver who hooned straight through an intersection and slammed into another car – killing one of its occupants – has been labelled a “poster boy” for arrogant, self-entitled young male drivers.

Stefan Lee Hannon McGinn​ was jailed for two years and three months when he appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Monday on charges of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing injury.

Trevor Bland, 56, the driver of the car Hannon McGinn struck, suffered critical injuries and died in Waikato Hospital.

Hannon McGinn should not have been driving, let alone texting.

The crash near Taupiri on March 12 last year should never have happened because the 19-year-old should never have been behind the wheel that day. His learner licence had been revoked after he racked up a stack of demerit points.

Even if he still had his learner’s licence, he was transporting two young men aged 17 and 19 – neither of whom had a licence themselves – which was a direct contravention of learner licence driving conditions.

The warrant of the unregistered car Hannon McGinn was driving had expired in January 2014.

And a police check of his cellphone records showed that in the minutes before the impact at 4.55pm, he had been receiving and sending text messages while behind the wheel.

It was an insouciant, callous attitude that he carried on after the deadly smash, telling the police the brakes on his car had failed – a subsequent investigation found they hadn’t – and denying he had been using his cellphone.

He later failed to show up for four scheduled interviews with the police, refused to give them his home address and when he eventually did, gave them a false address.

He denied the charges against him and was ultimately found guilty at a judge-alone trial in August this year.

He then failed to attend a pre-sentence meeting with his probation officer and was also caught driving again.

Not a good way to get a sympathetic hearing from a sentencing judge.

It was an evident lack of remorse that left Judge Kim Saunders apparently stunned as she sentenced Hannon McGinn.

“You are a poster child for why young men should not be behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is a lethal weapon,” she said.

Saunders said she struggled to understand why he had driven again after having been found guilty at the trial.

“I have no idea what on earth you were thinking, that it was your right to continue to drive.”

He did do some remorse eventually, sort of.


Hannon McGinn had written a letter of remorse in which he said his time in custody had opened his eyes.

He said he was genuinely sorry and now understood the loss and pain the Bland family were going through because he was also going through a loss – a loss of freedom.

“It is not comparable at all,” exclaimed the judge. “It is your own self that you are dwelling on. Whether it is because of your age or that you cannot understand the consequences of your actions, it is hard to tell.”

“I’m troubled greatly as to whether you are genuinely sincere.”

As well as killing a man the feects of his actions were significant.

Bland’s partner, Kim Robinson, who suffered fractures to her face, eye socket, ribs, sternum and spine in the crash, also had a statement read.

“You destroyed a big part of my life and left me broken. You will get to walk free, live again in the future. Trevor gets nothing. He is now ashes and you did that to him. I hope every day you feel the shame and remorse.”

Even Hannon McGinn’s mother is despairing of his behaviour.

Someone who apparently did understand the consequences was Hannon McGinn’s mother, who had withheld consent for her home to be used as a home-detention venue.

“I think like the rest of us she has struggled to accept your overwhelming sense of entitlement and self-pity.

“Your mother is described [in a pre-sentence report] as frustrated and despairing of your behaviour.”

Not all teenage males should be stopped from driving because of the dangerous actions of a few selfish idiots, but the attitude of some – Hannon McGinn had two passengers – aids and abets this sort of behaviour.

The consequences can be devastating for innocent victims.

Human rights in prison

On The Nation this morning:

Lisa Owen talks to Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier about whether inmates’ human rights are being violated in our prisons and what his office can do to deal with the issue.

Prisoners lose some rights, like freedom and voting, but a decent society still has to provide human rights in prisons.

Boshier says resourcing is “at the heart” of issue of cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners.

“You can’t have someone in prison with high mental health needs and no appropriate way of treating that prisoner”.

“Frankly I’m horrified… that Serco occurred under our noses” says Boshier.

An unfortunate experiment at Mt Eden prison.

Boshier says he’s concerned about use of restraints in private secure dementia units.

“I’m deliberately signalling that we need to watch this space” he says.

Boshier says he’ll go to Parliament in a year to ask for more funding to expand monitoring of secure dementia units.