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IN THIS ISSUE: It’s time for me to step back. Thank You. The Blame Must Stop - A Victim’s Voice. Opinion Piece by Jess Mcvicar. Judge the Judges and SST Offenders Database
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December 2018 Newsletter

Dear Members, it’s time for me to step back.


By Garth McVicar

After 17 years leading the Sensible Sentencing Trust I have decided that the time is right for me to step back. As of 31st December, I will retire from my role as CEO and national spokesman for SST.

In 2001 with the support of my family (particularly Anne) and many friends we established the Sensible Sentencing Trust.  Being a dad with four daughters I couldn’t sit back and hear about – or read about – all the terrible crimes that were happening, mostly against women and children and then watch as the offenders were given a smack on the hand or released at a fraction of their sentence. Or worse still, through the shameful antics of some unscrupulous defence lawyer – walk free altogether.  So with a hiss and a roar and a head of steam we set about reforming New Zealand the only way we knew how – just get out and give it a go!

From the humble beginnings on our farm in the Hawke’s Bay, Sensible Sentencing Trust today has many thousands of supporters throughout New Zealand. The organisation also has a number of advocates who support and/or advise victims on request. Many of these advocates have had first-hand experience of traversing the justice system so are certainly qualified to help others.

SST has won numerous accolades for the work it does to assist victims of serious crime.  Today, the Trust is the largest privately funded victim’s advocacy and justice reform organisation in New Zealand. Helping the thousands of victims has been a very rewarding experience but equally as gratifying is to see many of the law reforms SST has promoted now starting to have an effect.

Seventeen years after our formation and with many wins to our credit – law reforms such as, longer sentences for murder, compulsory DNA testing, the Offender Levy, bail amendments, longer non-parole periods, Three Strikes and many more SST driven improvements are now starting to have a dramatic effect on our crime levels.   New Zealand’s homicide numbers are at a rate not seen for many years and the horrific crimes that motivated Anne and I to set up SST– such as Teresa Cormack, Karla Cardno and Kylie Smith – to name just a few, are now – thank goodness – vastly reduced.

Anne and I readily admit that there is still much to do but the foundations are now in place and we think it is time for a new team to take the helm and take SST forward. The Board is presently interviewing possible candidates to take over the spokesperson role.

Anne and I would like to thank the many people who have made this journey possible. We have been helped by an amazing network of people with a vast array of skills - skills that we didn’t have – individuals who obviously shared our concerns but for one-reason or another were not able to say what we said or do what we did. Your support has been phenomenal!

People ask me what I am going to do in my ‘spare’ time when I leave SST.  As some of you may know, Anne and I live on our 2500 acre farm some 60 kms from Napier.  We breed deer, cattle and have bee hives on the property.  I have recently taken up flying a single seater gyro.  

What ‘spare’ time I ask?

How do we thank a legend?

How do you possibly thank a man who has given everything to champion the SST cause?

 A hero who never looked for recognition, accolades, money or fame; motivated because he is a good man who wasn’t prepared to do nothing. He has sacrificed time with his beloved daughters so that their children could live in a safer Country. Those in a position to change NZ for the better; Lawyers, Judges and Politicians were doing nothing but making the problem worse, so Garth stood up and showed them all what real Leadership looks like. 

18 years of his life has been dedicated to this crusade but his response would simply be “SST gave me more than I ever gave SST” How do we thank him for making our Communities safer, for being the person to give our Victims strength and support, for changing Laws, saving lives and most of all for showing us we all have it in us to make a difference?

So let’s leave it to the man who inspired Garth, someone he looked up to as a mentor, Patron of SST, the late Sir Russell Pettigrew:  “Garth if I could give you my Knighthood I would!”  Fitting recognition and an appropriate reward for what Garth has contributed and for who the man is. To Anne, the love of Garth’s life, who without her SST simply would not have existed. Never underestimate the esteem we all hold you in. You picked up the cause and showed the experts how to be brilliant. You ran the Office, produced newsletters, designed brochures, planned and delivered events, conferences, advertising campaigns and marches. There were no limits to your talents, but most of all you completed the brilliant ‘Team McVicar’. Anne and Garth from the bottom of our hearts we thank you and we love you for your kindness, your strength, your compassion, your hard work, your sacrifice. You are amongst an elite club of the most extraordinary people NZ has ever seen.

So how do we thank a legend? Simply, Garth you made us all better people for knowing you.

Louise Parsons - Founding and present day Trustee

Christchurch

CHRISTCHURCH will now become the new core centre for SSGT’s Administration. Jayne Walker will be our new Data base manager. Amy Telfer Chiles (Dunedin) will be head of other Administration. As from 1st February 2019 there will be a new postal address in Christchurch.   In the meantime P.O. Box 701, Napier, is still in use. Our May issue will give you the new P.O. Box. A re-direction will be in place between February and May 2019. Email: admin@ssgt.org.nz. Bank details stay the same 03 0698 0096242 00

Our SST Victim Advisors

Jess McVicar is our Youth Spokeperson. Jess can be reached at Jess.youth@sst.org.nz

Neville Pettersson is our Offender Database Manager.
Neville can be reached at neville@sst.org.nz

Jock Jamieson is our Public Awareness and Education Spokeperson. Jock can at reached at ssted@sst.org.nz

Thank you Jock and his team of speakers,

we appreciate the time you give to get our message out there. Membership has been a huge part of the growth of SST since its 2001 inception.

Our SSGT Victim Advisors

Leigh Woodman is our National Victim advisor. Leigh can be reached by mobile: 027 561 2119 or sstvictims@ssgt.org.nz

Jayne Walker is our South Island Victim Advisor. Jayne can be reached by mobile: 021 881 623 or jayne@ssgt.org.nz

Hayley Heke is our Waikato Victim Advisor. Hayley can be reached by mobile: 027 335 4640 or HayleyHeke@xtra.co.nz

Amy is our Dunedin advisor.
Amy can be reached at amy@ssgt.org.nz


I am Māori. Tuhinga o mua Ngāti Hāmua a Te Hika a Pāpāuma. Ko taku iwi Ngāti Kahungunua a Rangitāne.


I am Scottish, I am English, I am a New Zealander. I am not defined by the colour of my skin.


I am a victim.


I did not choose to be a victim.
 

The Blame Must Stop - A Victim’s Voice

I am a victim of my father’s hand. My father was brought up on the Pahiatua Marae. His mother was young; she became a victim of a kaumatua’s violence. He was conceived by violence, a tamaiti (child) of rape. The rapist was a family member. My father was taken from his mother, away from his whānau, his iwi and his marae after his father was incarcerated. He went on to live in state care until a foster family was found. My father was taught violence by the people who were supposed to protect and nurture him.    Anger followed him, the violence forever ingrained in his heart. He knew right from wrong, he had a choice. He did not stop the cycle of abuse, and he punished me for the actions of his past.

I was a child when it started, an adult when it stopped. Like his father, he was incarcerated for crimes of child abuse, violence and rape. I did not choose to be a victim, but I chose not to harm others. I broke the ongoing cycle of generational abuse. The cycle of abuse that was carried through three generations of Māori stopped with me.

“Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear; take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa.” Dame Whina Cooper.

Mohio ana ahau ko wai ahau, e mohio ana ahau ki te wahi e tu ana ahau. Me puta te huringa – I know who I am, I know where I stand. Change must happen.

At the recent Justice Summit in Wellington, cabinet minister Kelvin Davis shared these words: “As Māori we need to take care of our own, rather than closing our doors. We need to face up to and free ourselves from the violence that many of our people, our whānau, struggle with.” If we want to see fewer Māori in prison, our whānau broken apart because dad is in prison and mum is now in rangi (heaven), we must free ourselves and our whānau from the increasing level of domestic violence and abuse in our homes. The drugs must stop the high level of drinking and violence among our own must be gone.

How many of our fathers are incarcerated, because their fathers taught them the only way to deal with anger was violence, to punch their way through a situation. How many of our whānau have lost a mother, a child, a brother from our people’s own hand.

The blame needs to stop. It is not the police, the system, the state, the Government, the justice system or even the Pākehā who made a man beat his wife to death, to rape an innocent stranger, to murder their own child or to sexually abuse a daughter or son.

No, it was a choice, a choice made by a perpetrator. Māori make up 51 per cent of the male prison population, and 60 per cent of the female muster.

No child asks to be harmed, nor to watch their dads beating their mums. If we were all true to our Māori traditions, our tikanga respecting the mothers of our children, our whānau, our honour, keeping our whānau safe would be paramount. Māori need to take an honest inward look at their own ongoing behaviours first. Our children need to have the chance to grow up safe, educated and free from violence.   Davis went on to say: “We need to do something together to create a different future for Māori and for their whānau.”

This cycle needs to stop. The men, the fathers, the grandfathers, the elders in prison who have abused their own need to stand up, take ownership and responsibility and say “Enough”. No more blaming everybody and everything for the crimes offenders have chosen to commit. Prison is a punishment for those who have committed crimes; prison is not based on the colour of your skin. If you are sent to prison it is because you committed a crime, a choice made only by you.

To see a future with fewer Māori men and Māori women in prison will take more than talks and hui. It starts with Māori, rethinking and reteaching the respect, the whakaute, to our children and to one another. It will be a hard, long road but one that will benefit ourfuture generations, to help our tamariki grow not as offenders, but strong, happy iwi that will have a positive influence on future generations to come.

Hapaitia tea ra tika pumua ai te rangatiratanga mo nga uri whakatipu – Foster the pathway of knowledge and strength, independence and growth for future generations.

I was recently asked a question about my past that triggered a response I believe relevant to share. A private glimpse into who I chose to become or more importantly who I chose NOT to become. In life we all have choices. We are all taught right from wrong, we all have that gut feeling, that little inner voice and more importantly personal responsibility and accountability.

There has been an incredible amount of public conversations and media reporting around Offenders once being Victim’s themselves. I know first-hand what it means to be a victim and the impact it has had on all areas of my life. Please understand this-just because I was once a victim; this does not give me the right, or the excuse to harm another. I have read many reports on how Offenders are having their prison sentences drastically reduced because of ‘past wrongs’. I have read how Offenders have used their ‘past sufferings’ to blame others for the crimes they have committed. I am sorry but reading this makes me sick to the core, the ‘blame game’ is not acceptable, nor a valid excuse in my view.

My personal story is one of childhood sexual abuse, physical and sexual violence that involved torture for all the world to see. The sexual crimes committed against me as a child and young adult lasted 19 years. The emotional abuse and control for 28 years.  

  The child and teenage images still present within the ‘Child Pornography World’ as I write this now.

I knew pain from a very young age, I did not understand why the pain was focused on my private parts. I did not understand why I was the only one in my family that had a secret, but I understood if I shared this secret my mother and my sister would be killed. I did not understand why my mother would send me away or why my Grandparents wanted me to live with them, but I understood how free I felt when my Grandparents took care of me. I did not understand why I was locked in a cage if I screamed, but I understood it was best not to scream. I did not understand why I was never allowed to cry, but I understood what the punishment would be if I did. I never understood why I was not allowed to play at a friend’s house, but I knew how cold an unfired bullet felt pressed against my face. I never understood how anyone could hurt an animal, but I understood why an animal shook with fear. 

Throughout my childhood one question always overtook any others-a question that still clearly rules my mind-why would any human being want to make another person suffer in the way that I did? Why would anyone ever chose to hurt an innocent child, an innocent victim? The way I did? The pain I suffered, the abuse I experienced was at times overwhelming, but I knew I would NEVER inflict this pain upon anyone.  

I chose to survive, I chose to fight against every moment that was stolen from me. I have worked my whole life to recover from my past, at times I still fight. Like all victims, I have my moment’s. I use these moments as a reminder that I did survive. Yes, I am a victim of my past but like all victims that have survived I have chosen not to harm or hurt another. An Offender has a choice. An Offender, just like any other human being, any other member of Society has something called ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘person accountability’. 

So please the next time you read or hear the words ‘an offender was once a victim’ take a moment to remember all the victims who chose not to offend, who chose not to repeat the cycle of violence and/or abuse they once suffered. Please take a moment to remember those victims who no longer live to tell their stories; whose families must continue their lives without them. Try and tell the parents or the family of a child who was murdered, raped or sexually abused their offender did not have a choice. That the offender’s violence resulted from the ‘wrong doings’ of their past. An offender does NOT have the right to play the blame game. The blame stops with the Offender!!

Written anonymously for the Victims protection – please contact our National Victims Advisor ssgtvictims@ssgt.org.nz for further information.

Opinion Piece by Jess McVicar

“There is the hope a victim will give up, get tired of waiting and move on with their life.” These are the words of the leader of our Safe And Effective Justice Advisory Group, Chester Borrows!  If that is how the leader feels about protecting the community and protecting Victims then I feel this revamp of the Justice System is going to be worse than I thought.

The Advisory Group has been traveling the country undertaking regional huis.  They are meant to bring the community together with ideas on the present Justice System, how we can improve it for everybody involved and how we can get offending rates down.

However, a recent hui in Hamilton turned into a lynch mob attack on REAL Victims. At this Hamilton meeting, Mr Borrows said he had no idea who came up with the idea of 1800 extra Police on the streets and how the lack of safety in our communities has been exaggerated, as 70% of our population do feel safe in their own homes.  Can he be that closed minded to what is going on around him that he honestly believes we all feel safe in our homes?   Does he not hear about the cases of sexual abuse and physical abuse, elderly being attacked and beaten to near death in their own homes, babies and young children being severely injured and some killed at the hands of their own families?  Does Mr Borrows not pay any attention to any of this at all?  Here is the man who has been placed in charge of the Advisory Group and who wants there to be no emotion in any decision on the reformed Justice System.

What I find confusing about his stance is that at these huis the offenders are invited to tell their emotional stories of their time in prison, how hard it was for them and how the Justice System has done them wrong.  The offenders’ families are coming out saying they have been victimised by the Justice System.  I feel there is a lot of emotion being brought into this from the offender’s side whilst REAL Victims are not supposed to show any emotion.

Andrew Little speaks of wanting to listen to all New Zealanders and that Victims are valuable and community safety is paramount. But is Mr Little speaking of REAL Victims or the so called “Victims” who choose to commit crimes?

I understand that a lot of the offenders in and out of prison have had rough upbringings and have learning disabilities but each of them made a conscious decision to offend.

REAL Victims are now being told they are non-important, they are not Victims and given their pain, their loss and their heartache they are not allowed to be emotional – a hard pill to swallow!

Kelvin Davis says showing compassion to prisoners and offenders has been the answer to lowering the prison rate.  I ask, “Does that include those offenders showing compassion to their REAL Victims, showing compassion to their children they abused and showing genuine remorse, because currently all I am seeing is their blaming others for their criminal behaviour?”


And contradictory to the above this is what Andrew Little says speaking on the recent Defense Force sexual harassment case:

“To that extent, the current system was not satisfactory: “The process of evidence should not be so harrowing,” he argued. “In the end, it’s about calling alleged perpetrators to account and for those who do offend, they shouldn’t be able to rely on victims being so fearful they will go away.”
 

A big thank you to Jock who has spent some time re-vamping our Judge the Judges website 

The website is run by the Sensible Sentencing Trust in order to highlight inadequacies in the New Zealand system of justice and how it impacts on judges decisions made in court. 

− This includes uneven decisions across similar types of offending and the grossly inadequate level of sentencing sometimes imposed. Sensible Sentencing believes strongly in judicial accountability. 

We give the latest thumbs down To Judge Michael Downs

George Christopher Pomee who has links to the Head Hunters gang, is a violent offender with a history of threatening to kill, kidnapping, and aggravated robbery including a 67 year old woman at an ATM machine. His accumulated convictions mean he is a third strike offender under New Zealand’s Three Strike law which carries the maximum available sentence without parole.  Offences: Aggravated robbery, Kidnapping. Sentence: 14 years imprisonment with minimum period of five and a half years.  Pomee, received his first strike and one year 11 months’ imprisonment after two robberies in November 2013, including the 67-year-old woman.

For his second strike Pomee was given 16 months’ imprisonment for an aggravated robbery in April 2015. Armed with a piece of wood he took a 16-year-old’s bank card and phone and demanded the pin code for each before emptying his bank account. Clearly, Pomee was undeterred by receiving his second strike because soon after his release in August 2017, Pomee and his associates robbed two men in their car. They stole cigarettes, money and a mobile phone and just six days after that, Pomee and two co-offenders offended again. Parked next to their victim, this time it was an overseas visitor who was robbed.  The Three Strikes law was intended to prevent recidivist offenders like Pomee from continuing to offend for a very long period of time by imposing the maximum term of imprisonment without parole .The provision of the ‘manifestly unjust’ clause in the legislation was put there to avoid a rare situation where giving the maximum sentence might be unjust. 

The use of this clause was intended by the NZ Parliament to be used only in exceptional circumstances. In what can only be described as judicial activism, it has become a regular feature of judicial decision making to use the manifestly unjust clause to reduce sentence length. Not what parliament intended!.  Justice Michael Downs sentenced Pomee to 14 years imprisonment for each of the two main offences and then listed four aggravating factors, things that made the offending worse: 

(a) It was premeditated. He targeted the same location six days earlier.

(b) It involved actual violence. He punched the victim repeatedly, and to his head.

(c) He threatened to kill the victim. He showed him a magazine with bullets. The later search reveals a gun was present. The threat was credible.

(d) He acted in concert with others, and so risked escalation of harm.   After going through this litany of factors you might expect the most serious of responses,  but no, Justice Downs managed to invoke the manifestly unjust clause anyway and handed down just one 14 year sentence but with a mere five and a half year minimum time to be served.

Pomee could be out sooner rather than later. More victims will be the result.

SST Offenders Database

Recently, the Privacy Commissioner raised his concerns with SST about the reliability of a specific entry on the Offenders Database. 

As a result, we have taken the Offenders Database offline while we audit all records.  

We anticipate this will take a little time until completed and we apologise for any inconvenience this causes. Current message when attempting to access the data base:

The Offender Database is undergoing maintenance work and will not be available until this is completed. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Thank you

to all members who renewed their membership from our May newsletter. Once again the mail has been amazing.  We appreciate your overwhelming support which helps us continue the fight for change on your behalf. Thank you for taking the time to read our latest newsletter.

Season’s greetings and best wishes for the New Year from the team at SST and SSGT!

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