Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Justice, or a bad joke?

It's not really for us to comment on the length of sentences imposed by the Courts. After all, sentencing guidelines now are so tight that sentences are almost pre-programmed, although that will change somewhat with the Three Strikes law coming into force. But we wonder whether justice was done today in the High Court in Rotorua - read on (our emphasis added):

Isaiah Tai, the man who killed Bay of Plenty regional councillor and school principal Hawea Vercoe, has today been jailed for two years and 10 months.

Tai, 21, an orchard worker from Opotiki, had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced in the High Court at Rotorua by Justice Judith Potter this morning.

The court was packed with whanau members of both men throughout the emotionally-charged sentencing.

Victim impact reports read by Mr Vercoe's wife, mother and an aunt moved many to tears.

He died after being attacked outside a Whakatane bar last November.

Crown prosecutor Greg Hollister-Jones said that although Tai had initially denied kicking Mr Vercoe in the head after punching him to the ground, he acknowledged he had done so after expert analysis of CCTV pictures of the attack.

OK - so Tai knocks a person unkown to him to the ground, kicks him in the head, kills him, and pleads guilty to manslaughter after being charged with murder in the first instance. For that he gets two years and 10 months in jail, less any time already served.

Now remember, we're not criticising the sentence at this point; but two things stand out:

  • Counsel for Tai, Paul Mabey, QC, said Tai accepted causing Mr Vercoe's tragic death. He praised the outcome of a restorative justice conference between the two whanau.
  • Outside the court Vercoe whanau members slammed the sentence as "too light" and "a joke".
The latter quote from the Herald story makes a mockery of the former from Paul Mabey QC. Then again, the restorative justice conference obviously worked well for Tai, who will be out of prison in next to no time.

But has justice been done for Hawea Vercoe? Somehow, we don't think so.


baxter said...

Its not just an outrage to the Vercoes it is an outrage to society. I assume he will do one third of 2and half years. So called restorative justice takes place in other jurisdictions after sentencing and is not used as an excuse for a judge to evade the responsibility of imposing a credible sentence for which he is well paid. On what grounds was this killer able to evade trial for murder.

Inventory2 said...

Baxter - from memory, he was originally charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge - for which he gets credit at sentencing! That is one part of the Sentencing Act that I struggle with.