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More deaths in prison please

  • July 4th, 2011

 If court sentences were not made into lies by parole, then most life sentences would end with murderers dying in prison. I'm proud to have helped make at least one life sentence genuine.

Years ago I accompanied an elderly couple to a Parole Board hearing. I'd had a Member's Bill to abolish parole, like Clinton in the US, so I welcomed opportunies to see parole in practice. I was criticised for being at hearings with victims by MPs who supported official moves to end the victim right to argue before the Board.

Last Friday I got a message that made that time doubly worthwhile.

Good Afternoon Mr Franks
 
I am writing on behalf of my whole family but mostly from my parents [  ]  from [  ] in regards to your help and input into keeping a very dangerous man behind bars Mr Allan Francis Convery (AKA Cowley which he later changed his name to) for the crime of Murdering my sister Anne Elizabeth  at the age of 5 yrs old in 1967.
 
With your help and support we managed to keep him behind bars , we feel that we have prevented another tragedy happening to another family.
I am pleased to inform you that Mr Allan Convery died several weeks ago .
We feel a huge weight has been lifted off our hearts, that we now no longer have the threat of him entering back into the community .
 
Again thank you for your support.
Signed [Carolyn
]

Carolyn has authorised me to publish that message. I remember not being able to keep the tears back as her parents told of the day it happened.  They described the little girl's excitement at going to school, and the mounting fear when she was  missing. They did not need to detail the images in their minds when her little body was found in a macrocarpa hedge. I thought of my daughters and whether Cathy and I would cope.

The memory is vivid still. I remember the room we waited in, for the Parole Board. I was relieved to see that the Chairman was a friend (an early boss when I started as a lawyer) because he had common sense. The Parole Board is deliberately not allowed to keep people in just because it is outrageous for them to be out, or because it hurts the victims afresh , or because it would make a mockery of the sentence. Parole is not even a reward for good behaviour in prison.

Instead the Board has only one thing to consider. To ensure a prisoner serves the full sentence the Board must persuade itself that the public will be unsafe if they let the criminal out. A cosmetic change was made several years ago to say that parole is a privilege, not a right, but the operative sections were not changed to make that amendment mean what it says.

The parents explained their fears with dignity. When the Board decided to keep  Convery/Cowley in it did justice. I think the members knew they were stretching that law.

The law still has not been reformed. Until it is in my opinion only well-meaning fools or masochists sit on the Parole Board.

Unfortunately for them and the rest of us,  those who control criminal justice have managed to distance themselves from ordinary human compassion. From their sheltered jobs and leafy suburbs they’ve traded genuine compassion for the special rhetorical compassion of politicians (and academics). They can claim to care for abstract classes and categories (prisoners, the “disadvantaged” and  “misunderstood” etc) – the masses. But real  individuals. not them, and not abstract sociological classes, bear the consequences.

I’ve tried to work out why our criminal law has gone so seriously wrong. I think now it is just old fashioned use of power to show superiority.

There is little more satisfying for certain types of politician than to display their own public compassion by generously offering  other peoples’ money, hopes and safety,  to the deeply undeserving.  The more undeserving the better, as it shows just how deeply compassionate they must be to forgive so much and ask so little in return. It troubles them not that others pay the price and the wrongs are not theirs to forgive.

They consider it virtue to grant effective forgiveness on behalf of victims because the victims won’t. They consider the victims to be morally unsound, because they expect criminals to pay for their crimes, to balance the wrong done. Victims are embarrassing and awkward – they even plead for the price to be at least what the court ordered.

The politically compassionate types feel confident of their moral entitlement to over-ride the victims, because their cold official mercy shows they are so much more worthy than the emotional victims. 

Thank you Carolyn (and your parents) for reminding me of the real difference.
 

Comments

Gravatar
  • Don McKenzie
  • July 5th, 2011
  • 11:48 am

Absolutely bang on Stephan.

Gravatar
  • Richard
  • July 12th, 2011
  • 10:52 pm

I'm with you Mr Franks. Let these mongrels rot in prison.

Gravatar
  • Erl Roe
  • July 13th, 2011
  • 7:26 pm

I remember that murder taking place in my old home town, I also knew the family from whom Allan Convery came from and where they lived. I didn't know them personally, and I always wondered what ever happened to the murderer.
It was a horrendous event for the citizens in Levin and I can still to this day remember his eyes and face, the hedge where the little girl was discovered was set on fire some time later… very sad

Gravatar
  • Robyn
  • July 16th, 2011
  • 1:23 am

I was a young girl who lived not far from where this evil event occured and I attended the same school as Anne.  It had a profound affect on me as a child  and it shattered the Levin  community.  I remember my parents being extremely distressed and the entire atmoshere at school and in everypart of the town as one of horror.  When I heard the news item on the radio about the death of Allan Convery it brought back many of those distressing memories but at least now we can close the door to some extent knowing that  Allan Convery no longer exists.

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