Looking on the bright side of life is not always easy – did I just state the obvious?
Much as I believe we Kiwis live in a country that’s been blessed, I’m also noticing more incidents that are making it less God’s own and more of the devil in disguise.
Crimes, called ‘petty’, but which can profoundly affect victims – burglary, theft, car conversion, vandalism and, worse, assault and abuse – continue to plague us.
Many readers will have heard about the vicious attack on Chris Turner, co-owner of Papakura’s, Red Earth restaurant – what prompts these toe rags to beat a man to a pulp for no good reason?
I constantly find myself asking when did kids stop lifting a few lollies and start stabbing dairy owners? And, when was it okay to use being high on meth as an excuse for raping a three-year-old?
There was a time when I was firmly in the rehabilitation camp and I still believe many offenders, especially first time offenders, can be reformed with the right assistance. But I’ve come to believe rehabilitation is a long shot for some.
There are too many reports of serious re-offending (including by people on bail), to be ignored and many end in tragedy.
So, am I crazy to ask if our judges seem out of touch with just how bad some folk really are? Some sentences are proving inadequate as punishment, failing to deter future offending, but in my mind, offenders need to realise punishment is an upshot of wrong doing.
While, I’m not so unrealistic to suppose every prison term will halt re-offending, what is the alternative when talking serious offenders?
Protection orders, electronic monitoring and probation don’t always work – the 2015 rape and murder of Blessie Gotingco by Tony Robertson comes to mind.
I wasn’t the only one gobsmacked by the government enquiry which cleared the Department of Corrections of any responsibility for Mrs Gotingco’s death despite a psychological report on Robertson, together with his record of serious offending, suggesting some foresaw him as a danger.
Surely, the child abduction and molestation crimes which jailed him for eight years sounded alarm bells? Thankfully, that enquiry resulted in 27 recommendations aimed at improving the management of high risk offenders.
But have things improved? Well, a more effective public protection order has been instigated which means some prisoners ending their sentence won’t rejoin society.
That may ease some fears but I’m not convinced authorities will recognise (and acknowledge) the danger signals more quickly than in the past and ensure those convicted of rape, aggravated assault, and murder remain out of the public arena.
While I don’t fancy waking to another rape, child death, stabbing or brick assault on the news, I think we all know such things aren’t going away. And, I guess it’s too much to expect that those responsible for the Chris Turner assault shouldn’t walk free again.
Maybe it’s time to re-look at ‘life-long’ sentences for the worst of our criminals and remember victims, and their families, are guaranteed a lifetime sentence.