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Look Behind the Faces

  • April 20th, 2008

sensible-sentencing-sml.JPG (click on the photo to see the background)

This is not just a picture of two hard-working fellows –  my husband, Stephen Franks and Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust. The background is what is important.  On that noticeboard are the poignant stories of the young people and elderly parents murdered in New Zealand  by other New Zealanders.  Most of the offenders had been given another chance by the State – they were out on parole or bail. 

The clippings and photos were put there by their families who attended this weekend’s Sensible Sentencing Conference in Wellington.  I sat in on a number of sessions and felt privileged to see their courage, tears and yes, laughter.  To see how they supported each other.  And to see how frustrated they are with the New Zealand Criminal Justice system which gives lots of help to the offenders, and very little to the families of their innocent victims.  The stories of these murders are appalling, beyond our imagination or belief.  And yet what happens afterwards, in the Coroner’s hearing, Court hearings and Parole hearings is also beyond normal belief.  The system is failing badly and it impacts on all of us. 

You cannot feel sorry for the murderers.  Most of these particular criminals made a conscious choice that day to murder or kill.  Their chance of rehabilitation is almost zero.  Yet they are let out again and again by our soft Justice System to threaten your children and elderly parents, and mine. 

You may say these criminals have often had harsh backgrounds.  Others have those backgrounds and they do not murder.  You may say they are born psychopaths and cannot help themselves.  Others are psychopaths and yet they content themselves preying on the innocent for money without conscience. They do not murder. 

People complain that Sensible Sentencing is too harsh.  If you had spent a harrowing and emotional weekend with these families, you might reconsider that.  John Key was there listening and obviously moved by what he was told.  Let’s hope a Government led by him can look at this situation with realism and compassion, not just failing idealism. 

Catharine Franks   

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