Take Judith Collins' shameless piece in the Herald today on the three-strikes law.
Her piece starts by relating the story of a horrible crime. We are being told that anyone who commits such crimes is a monster and must be put away forever.
As horrible as the crime committed by Nicholas Hawker clearly was, it isn't easy to see just what that has to do with the three-strikes law Collins is writing in support of. Nowhere does the article suggest that Hawker would have gone away for life (I mean actual life) if he had committed this offence under the proposed new laws. Would he have been on a strike already? If so why didn't Collins mention the fact?
This blatant piece of emotional manipulation also ignores the fact that judges now have the ability to impose minimum sentences, and that parole laws have been toughened considerably since the 1997 murder (a murder committed under a National government. Soft on crime, were they?)
So why raise the case, other than to smear opponents of the silly new law?
Time and again, victims of crime have told me they feel let down by a system that seems to put greater emphasis on the rights of offenders than victims.Well, yes, of course they feel that way. Can you imagine many victims of a serious violent crime being satisfied with anything other than the ritual disembowelment of the offender? If someone did away with one of my children I'd want to see the person chopped into small pieces. And yet I don't support the death penalty. If our aim is solely to satisfy victims of crime then let's do away with sentencing by judges and conduct a poll of the victims: "Who wants to hang him? Any bids for a flogging? Stoning? What about life in a windowless cage?"
Could it be (and I know this will sound dreadfully unpopular) that we talk too much about the rights of victims already? How can we be impartial in our exercise of justice if we let emotion dominate proceedings?
But there's more:
People expect safe communities, where they can walk the streets without the threat of violence or intimidation, where they can sleep at night knowing their families are safe in their homes, where there is respect for property, people and the law.Maybe we ought to then look at why people commit crime. Surely "because they're just bad people" doesn't really explain it. But that might raise a number of uncomfortable questions about the influence of poverty and economic disadvantage.
In this country we have many people who have made a thriving industry out of making excuses for criminals.Those damned human rights people! Lefties, all of 'em!
In the past decade these people have overwhelmed the debate on law and order with their views on the rights of offenders.Actually, who are "these people"? Because the only people who appear to be dominating the debate at the current time are the lock-em-up types beloved of the Sensible Sentencing Trust. Note the reference to "the past decade" - ooh, it must be Labour she's referring to.
By making excuses for criminals, these people send a very strong signal that crime is acceptable in our communities, that it is an accepted fact of life.I'm not sure that comment has any basis in reality. Would the Minister care to provide an example?
Recently, a senior judge told me that he believed there was "far too much emphasis on victims in our courts at the moment".Blame the judges too. Bunch of pansy liberals, all of them.
It's this acceptance that every crime is solely a crime against the state rather than the individual that I believe is at the heart of the situation we now find ourselves in.You wonder if she was shaking her head while she wrote this, marvelling at her own audacity. Does Collins really believe judges have no respect for victims? Of course they have respect - they are human, and they have to sit through these trials, listening to every ghastly detail. But judges are also responsible for upholding the rule of law. They must balance the rights of the victim with the rights of the offender (yes, even "bad people" have rights in our pansy liberal nanny-state) and the interests of justice as a whole. Judges must also follow precedent.
Justice and punishment must be impersonal, but that does not mean it should be blind to the human impact of crime and the human need for redress.Straw man set up and ready to go down!
For every crime there are victims like Leigh and her family, and for justice to be truly done it must strive to bring peace and closure to those victims.Bringing peace and closure are not the sole aims of the criminal justice system. Besides, many victims will never have closure - the trauma is just impossible to overcome. Let's not pretend otherwise.
I don't believe prison should be enjoyable. Prison should be an unpleasant experience so offenders do not want to return.Next straw man ready to go down! I'd be surprised if many offenders think prison is a holiday camp. The fact of the matter is that many of these folk are messed up and lack the ability to control their behaviour. They don't think rationally. Most of them don't stop to think "if I waste that guy and get caught I'm going inside". Most violent offending is impulsive.
The justice system's sole focus should not be on punishment. It is very important to give people the opportunity to turn their lives around.
But pressure from those who advocate for the rights of criminals has resulted in too much focus on rehabilitating the prisoners who are least likely to be rehabilitated.Those damn liberals again. But how do you know who can and cannot be rehabilitated?
The policy will deter criminals from committing further crimes...Based on what evidence?
...keep the worst offenders behind bars for longer and bring certainty to sentencing of the most hardened offenders.Like a guy who maybe in his youth was a bad sort, but finds Jesus and then 20 years later gets done for manslaughter because he makes a careless mistake on the road? It's life without parole for him under the new law. Would that be a fair result?
Finally, shouldn't Garth McVicar get a writing credit for this article?