Third strike sentence “grossly disproportionate”

Yesterday a man received a mandatory third strike sentence of seven years imprisonment that was “at the lower end of the spectrum of indecent assaults”, but High Court judge J Toogood said that serving a full sentence  without parole would be a grossly disproportionate outcome and manifestly unjust so ruled that parole could apply if appropriate at the time.

The Justice Ministry confirmed to the Herald that the case was the first third strike sentencing under the Three Strikes law.

From the Sentencing Notes:

[1] Raven Casey Campbell: you appear for sentence having pleaded guilty in the District Court to one charge of indecent assault.1 Because you have previously received stage-one and stage-two warnings under the “three-strikes” law, this has become a stage-three offence and you are liable to be sentenced to the maximum term of seven years’ imprisonment and to serve it without parole.

[3] In March 2013, you were convicted of receiving stolen property (committed in October 2011) and possessing a knife in a public place (in April 2012). At that time, you were also convicted of robbery and demanding to steal, offences committed in September and October 2012. You were between 20 and 21 years old at the time of that offending. On the more serious charges you received concurrent sentences of fourteen months’ intensive supervision and four months’ community detention, and you were given a stage-one warning on the robbery charge.3

[4] On 7 April 2014, you were convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to three years and four months’ imprisonment. That offence was committed only five months after the earlier sentences were imposed. You were given a stage-two warning. The terms of that warning informed you what the consequences would be if you were convicted of a later qualifying offence. It has not been suggested to me that you did not understand it or were not capable of understanding it, but I have no doubt that it was not in your mind when you committed this impulsive and foolish offence.

[5] The current offending occurred on 17 May 2016, while you were serving your sentence of imprisonment at Waikeria Prison. A female Corrections officer was standing in a doorway supervising prisoners in the kit locker, where prisoners exchange their clothing, towels and bedding for fresh items. Standing behind the Corrections officer, you grabbed her right buttock, squeezed it quite hard, and held on for about 1 to 2 seconds.

[6] You were told to go to the guard room but you did not make any attempt to move. When the Corrections officer went to leave the yard through a set of steel gates, you followed her, grabbed the gate, and asked the Corrections officer if you could talk to her. You were told to move your hand so the Corrections officer could leave and you did so. The Corrections officer was not injured but she suffered stress and has been off work.

[7] You have said that you really liked the officer; that you grabbed her as a bit of a joke and you thought your actions would be taken that way.

“Three-strikes” regime

[13] Mr Sutcliffe accepts that because you have been convicted of a stage-three offence other than murder, I have no option but to sentence you to the maximum term of imprisonment prescribed for the offence; that is, seven years’ imprisonment.6 I agree that is very harsh given that what you did was not the most serious assault of its type, but Parliament has determined that your history of violent offending requires a very stern response to protect the public from you and to act as a deterrent to you and others. It may seem very surprising that this consequence could be required by law for an offence of this kind, but that is the law and I have no option but to enforce it.

Sentence without parole Principles

[14] The law also requires the Court to order that you shall serve the entire sentence without parole, unless that would be manifestly unjust, given your circumstances and the circumstances of the offence.


[17] The assault was spontaneous and not malicious, and the act itself was at the lower end of the spectrum of indecent assaults.10 There have been cases where offending of a similar nature or gravity has not resulted in a sentence of imprisonment at all.

[19] Overall, were it not for the requirement to sentence you to the maximum term of seven years, the need to denounce your conduct, hold you accountable and deter others and you from such offending would likely have resulted in a period of no more than 12 months’ imprisonment.


[21] Having considered all of these factors, particularly the nature of the offence and your prior offending; the early plea; your remorse and insight, and your rehabilitation prospects, I have no doubt that requiring you to serve a full sentence of seven years’ imprisonment without parole would be a grossly disproportionate outcome. After you have served one third of the sentence, it will be a matter for the Parole Board to determine whether and when it is safe to release you into the community. You should be encouraged, Mr Campbell, to take part in those rehabilitation programmes.


[23] On the charge of indecent assault to which you have pleaded guilty, I sentence you to seven years’ imprisonment as required by law. I do not order that you must serve that sentence without parole.