Dec 22, 2010


The Herald reports;

“Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell has criticised a Rotorua judge for sending a teenager to prison for 12 months for breaching a sentence of home detention

Last week Judge Phillip Cooper sentenced Mere Ohlson, 17, to jail after she breached her home detention by cutting off her ankle bracelet and leaving the address where she was supposed to be serving her sentence. She was arrested four days later.

Mr Flavell said he was shocked at the sentence and the judge had other options including sentencing the teenager to some form of rehabilitation instead of spending $100,000 of taxpayers' money to keep her in prison.”

This is a bizarre decision and, in my opinion, manifestly excessive. I fail to see how a breach of home detention warrants a 12 month prison sentence. It is more appropriate to extend her community service hours and her home detention length. Save cell spots for those who actually need to be there, those who pose a threat to society.

Rotorua District Court Judges have a strange fondness for excessive sentencing. The two lead collaborators in the robbery, Bouden Walden and Darcy Te Kiri, were sentenced to 20 months jail and 28 months respectively. During the robbery no violence occurred and no damage resulted – they just stole a packet of pinapple lumps worth $2.90. Somehow the Judge reasoned that a financial loss of $2.90 and probably minor emotional harm is worth 20 months and 28 months in prison at a cost of around $500,000.  

New Zealand needs to start doing things differently. The old approach has failed and continues to fail on a larger and larger scale. Judges with a penchant for penal punishment over rehabilitation need to stop perpetuating the problem.

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