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Vanessa Pickering’s mother betrayed by the state

  • April 19th, 2011

I knew Vanessa Pickering. She was in the group of kids from a neighbour's farm, shy, and agile on a horse.

So there was special pathos for me in hearing her mother Rachel this morning tell Marcus Lush how she worked from day one of Chaston's trial for murdering Vanessa, toward her few minutes of formal recognition – the reading of her victim impact statement.

I wish I'd interrupted to say something to Rachel, before Marcus turned to me for comment on Phil Goff's disgraceful  victim impact statement law, and how it obliges or allows the prosecutor to censor what the victims want to say.

I explained, as I have so often before (here and here, for example)  that section 17 of the Victims' Rights Act doesn't allow victims to do more than say how badly the crime has managed to hurt them. Instead of the conclusion of the trial celebrating the triumph of the innocent over the wicked, the re-empowering of the victim, it is turned into a fresh humiliation in front of the criminal, a reminder that the victim is a passive witness, at best. The  trial is focussed on the criminal and his interests. It emphasizes the control of the state and its justice insiders, including over the victim and her legitimate expectation of vindication, retribution and reinstatement to equality with the offender.

The trial tightly controls the victims, lest they revolt at the weak mimicry of justice the state now delivers, and seek genuine justice themselves. So scared are the justice insiders that they will not even risk harsh words from the victims.

And so Rachel was forced to endure the conversion of her apt words "slaughter" and "torture" into "attack" and other milk and honey official language.

I applaud the brave victims who know enough and are confident enough to cast aside their censored statements and to tell the court and the criminal exactly what they want to say.

And if any judge dares to criticise me as a lawyer, for encouraging transgression of the law, I'll ask them to explain why the entire judiciary, from the top down, collude to break the law Parliament passed while I was there which included the following:

Sentencing Act 2002, section 8

(c) "must impose the maximum penalty prescribed for the offence if the offending is within the most serious of the cases for which that penalty is prescriberd, unless circumstatnces relating to the offender make that inappropriate: and

(c) must impose a penalty near to the maximum prescribed for the offence if the offending is near to the most serious of cases for which that penalty is prescribed, unless circumstances relating to that offender make that inappropriate"

The severity distribution of sentences since those provisions were passed shows a collective decision by the judges to pretend that the law is something entirely different. Almost no maximum sentences are given. It does not matter how heinous the offence.

I like and respect French J.  I have to assume she is merely applying the judges' illegitimate "tariff" in giving Chaston a non-parole period of only 20 years, then relying on his preventive detention to do justice by keeping him in. For murder, of course there is the nominal lie of a life sentence, so the non-parole period is the real sentence.

When Phil Goff as Minister of Justice pushed through the Sentencing Act, he said that 17 years was to be the new starting point for murder with aggravating circumstances. It is set out in section 104 of the Act. We've since then had a few sentences around thirty years (after the dopey Court of Appeal has done its ritual reductions) but  when Chaston, with 71 previous convictions gets only 20 years just how bad will you have to be to get the new sentence of no parole from a murder sentence (section 86G(2A)) ?



Later – I hear Red Radio's line on the Chaston sentencing "Chaston not likely to receive rehabilitation (sic) for years into his sentence". But how refreshing to hear the psychologist they interviewed express the normal human view that he would be happy to press the switch or pull the lever on Chaston if we had the death penalty.

  • Don McKenzie
  • April 19th, 2011
  • 3:13 pm

Recently while researching in the NZ Herald for a project, I came accross the 'hanging or not to hang' debate. My recollection of the 1950's was that there were 2/3 convictions for murder per year. Two convicted  may have been commuted, one would hang. population prox 2,250,000. The Herald confirmed my recollection.In 1961 the National Govt allowed a conscience vote whereby 6 Nat members voted with the Labour Party to abolish hanging.(Hanans Bill) A poll at the time showed that hanging was preferred by a modest majority of the public.
Later by 1971, some ten years later the Herald figures shown for murder convictions had risen to 17 convictions per year. Our population had hardly risen.
Correct me if I am wrong Stephen.

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