Friday, November 16, 2012

What has this Judge been reading?

There has been another outrageous sentencing of a child abuser; the Herald reports:

He subjected his newborn baby to months of torture, biting through her earlobe, twisting her toe until it snapped, fracturing her ribs and femur and gouging the soles of her feet with his fingernail. But he will not spend any time in prison.
Despite inflicting "significant and repetitive violence" on the baby girl, leaving her little body covered in marks and bruises, Jack Alexander Booker was sentenced to 12 months' home detention.

What on earth was Judge Nevin Dawson thinking. Did he not read the case of the young fella sentenced to Home D in the Hawke's Bay, then jailed because the Court of Appeal found the sentence to be "manifestly inadequate"?

But wait, as they say; there's more; read on:

The 22-year-old cried as he was sentenced in the North Shore District Court yesterday. He was facing up to five years' jail on three charges of physically abusing his daughter, who was just a month old when it began.
But because he had no criminal history, pleaded guilty as early as possible and had taken steps to change his violent behaviour, he got a substantial discount, meaning he was eligible for home detention.
The Herald understands the Crown will not appeal the sentence and had expected either a lengthy home detention or a short stint in prison for Booker.
Judge Nevin Dawson described the abuse as "abhorrent" and began sentencing with jail time in mind.
"Your abuse was cruel. It's distressing to see a beautiful young child like this with injuries caused by a parent."
He said Booker was "genuinely and sincerely horrified", "extremely remorseful" and had already taken steps towards rehabilitation and anger management.
"You should not underestimate how close you were to prison today," Judge Dawson told Booker.
Court documents said the baby, born in February, began to suffer from colic in early April, making it hard to feed and settle her. Booker became "very angry and frustrated" and the abuse started.
"Booker would bite her very hard on the ears," court documents stated.
He also bit the baby's face repeatedly and used his thumbnails to "pick and gouge" at the soles of her feet, then concocted stories about how she got the injuries to hide what he was doing from his partner.
His offending was uncovered on June 7 after he slapped and bit the baby then twisted her toe until it broke. Booker's partner rushed her to hospital, where the suspected abuse was reported to police.
Detective Sergeant Steve Brewer said the case was "very sad".
"It's not a case of a father who's not coping being home alone with a baby ... There's an aspect of torture in what he's done to this little girl."

We're not sure what is worse here; the fact that Judge Dawson gave far more importance to the rights of the abuser over the rights of the abused, or the fact that the Crown was complicit in the appalling sentence.

It's great that Booker pleaded guilty quickly, is remorseful and is seeking help. But none of that will change the fact that he started torturing his daughter when she was just a month old. Babies are precious, and dare we say it, baby girls even moreso. 

That the Crown has no plans to appeal this sentence is an indictment on a justice system that many believe is weighted in favour of the perpetrators of crime. We call upon the Solicitor-General to urgently review this case, and to appeal to the High Court to test whether Judge Nevin Dawson's sentencing rationale stands scrutiny from a higher Court. It is the very least that should be done. We are aware of the constraints placed on judges by the Sentencing Act 2002; if this is the kind of outcome which that legislation produces by means of its paint-by-numbers approach, then perhaps the law is an ass.

Coming just a day after Joel Loffley was found guilty of murdering JJ Lawrence, the timing of this case is profoundly ironic. But let's not ignore how close Jack Booker came to being the next Joel Loffley, and how close his daughter came to being the next JJ.

Child abuse is never OK. We believe that the Courts must oppose sentences which truly deter those who might be about to beat and torture children in their care.


Lofty said...

And possibly even IMPOSE appropriate sentences IV2

Quintin Hogg said...

Read the Sentencing Act 2002. And the various decisions of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Setting sentencing bands and tarrifs for ranges of offending.

Sentencing is now a paint by numbers exercise.

There may be an appeal, but if Judge Dawson has scrupulously followed the instructions given to him by the act etc then that is it.

And i am willing to bet a chocolate fish he took into account the recent decision of the Court of Appeal that followed Justice Peters lienient decision.

I'd have loved to put the guy in the bin but the judge has to do what the law instructs him to do. There is no scope for the activist judge in the District Court. As I said above it is paint by numbers.

The Gantt Guy said...

Someone should organise a Citizen's Initiated Referendum calling for tougher sentencing.

Oh wait, we already did that and the mendacious scum in Wellington gave it all the attention they normally give CIRs.

IHStewart said...

MPs have questioned new Solicitor-General Mike Heron about whether he should more regularly respond to public criticism of judges.
But Mr Heron told the Justice Select Committee on Thursday that he is reluctant to speak out, because he believes the media is interested only in heroes and villains.
In its annual report, Crown Law says one of its jobs is to protect the judiciary from improper and unfair public criticism.
National MP Jackie Blue said there had recently been some brutal attacks on judges and asked Mr Heron what support his office was providing.
He explained it was conventional for the judiciary not to respond to such criticism and only occasionally for the Attorney-General to do so, but said there may be a case for him personally to speak out more often.
" He said it was worth considering whether he should speak publicly more often, not least as a way of educating the public.
Attorney General Chris Finlayson said Mr Heron should feel free to speak out.
"There is a growing disrespect of judges, and some of the criticism on the blogs is very personal and very unpleasant. There are ways of dealing with that. One of them is to speak out. Were he to chose the time to do that, look I wouldn't be too upset at all."
You are not allowed to disagree with judges KS