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Bethune’s ‘defence’ strategy

  • May 29th, 2010

I listened with incredulity to the end of Radio NZ's Morning Report interview on Thursday with a Dan Harris introduced as Pete Bethune's lawyer. I think I heard that Greenpeace had made sure he had lawyers. Are they acting for Greenpeace or Bethune? Presumably they've cleared any conflict of interest issues.

Or are Japanese sentencing criteria so unrecognisably different from ours that taunting a court (and a country) before sentencing works to reduce sentencing?

The interview first talked of plans to plead mitigating circumstances. Harris then went on to talk about sentencing on June 10. He said they plan to ask the court to "keep it all in perspective" assuming he is found guilty "and let him go – he's served enough time".

This was followed by discussion of prison conditions. Apparently no complaints.

Then the incredible comments – "He [Bethune] wants the world to know that he is glad he did what he did….he is very proud of what he has been able to accomplish… One of the first things he said to me when I met with him today was "its all been worth it and he would do it again".

A New Zealand judge would be almost bound to impose deterrent and denunciatory penalties, and perhaps even a protective  (incapacitatory) sentence in the face of such public absence of regret, and intention to reoffend.

If our consular officials are putting any sginificant effort into trying to help Bethune, if there has been an inclination by our government to try to help secure a light penalty, it would seem to me to be a waste of time  when his own lawyer seems to have instructions to do whatever can be done to outrage the court and maximise the penalty.

Perhaps it is deliberate – on some calculation that a "severe" sentence will make Bethune more of a martyr, and that will be worth what it costs him personally, in terms of the extra attention it will attract for the Japanese government, and extra embarassment for the New Zealand government if locals demand our government "do something" to Japan.

It might even work. My Greenpeace contributor friends and acquaintances do not have strong inclinations toward abstract reasoning. They'll interpret whatever happens to Bethune as an outrage, however calculatedly it has been invited.


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