Baby Shaker "Loop Hole" was Deliberate

Published: Thu 5 Dec 2002 12:35 AM
Baby Shaker "Loop Hole" was Deliberate
"The legal loophole which let off a 16 year old burglar from Christchurch who shook his three-week old son into a brain injury and broken leg, was no unexpected discovery. It was plain when Justice Minister Phil Goff's Sentencing Bill went through" ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.
"With obvious contempt for public opinion, the Bill raised the minimum age for imprisonment from 16 to 17. The baby shaker would be in prison now if that change had not been made. Instead he has been admonished, convicted and discharged.
"ACT opposed the change all the way through. We gave the Ministry of Justice days of prior notice of our formal move in Parliament to amend the relevant clause to reduce the minimum age of imprisonment from 17 to 12.
"The last thing we want to see is a lot of 12 year olds in prison. I do not believe judges should or would do that. But the judges should have the rare possibility, so evil young thugs know they are not immune from the law. So-called children who commit adult crimes know they can scoff at the justice system because of their immunity.
"So Mr Goff doesn't need to waste too much time "investigating how to rectify the problem" which his officials say they are doing. They can simply use our drafting. We would be happy to support the Government in adding this into the Statutes Amendment Bill immediately.
"The Commissioner for Children was right to say "It's very strange that somebody could go to jail for burglary but not for shaking the hell out of his own flesh and blood" but wrong to assume that Parliament was not aware of what he called the "glitch in the law". This was no mistake. It was deliberate policy pedalled by a Government that does not believe in punishment or in people of any age taking full responsibility for their actions. It flows from the upside-down philosophy that every wrongdoer is a victim of somebody or something's failure, so should be excused.
"There will be a lot more of these cases. The sentencing changes were deliberately left until shortly before the election, in the hope that the real effects would not be obvious until after people had voted. The Government is now pretending these things are unexpected. We can not and will not turn our crime wave around until there is a total change in philosophy", Stephen Franks said.

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