Hard News by Russell Brown

90

Not all victims are equal

I'm not surprised that audience members walked out during Annette King's speech to the Sensible Sentencing Trust's conference. Not that I think there was anything wrong with the speech itself -- but telling a hall full of people gathered around their belief that crime is spiralling out of control that crime is in fact falling is never going to go down well.

Indeed, Garth McVicar explained to Newstalk ZB that "what they wanted to hear was what the Minister is doing about rising crime, and they were very unhappy with her speech."

One of the walkouts was a woman whose daughter was the victim of a gang murder in 1997: she's got a pass to say and think what she likes.

But McVicar has a bit of a nerve declaring the only statistic the people who left the room cared about was "the fact their loved ones have been murdered" when he recently excused murder charges brought over the death of someone else's child as the mere consequence of the "frustration" of "a decent hard working citizen". Clearly not all victims are equal.

John Key, on the other hand, gave the crowd what they wanted: a roll-call of victims and some get-tough rhetoric. No one seemed to mind that there was no mention of the 2005 National policy to "abolish parole for repeat and violent offenders".

But the SST had a policy of its own: a three strikes law that would see repeat violent offenders given the mandatory maximum available for the offence and third offenders jailed for 25 years without parole. Their proposal isn't quite as crazy as California's law (it cites a limited number of qualifying offences) but it would be a mile down the road of the gimmick sentencing that has twisted the American justice system out of shape.

Meanwhile, a story that's not getting as much mileage as it should: Pentagon institute calls Iraq war 'a major debacle' with outcome 'in doubt'. To say that it blames Rumsfeld is putting it mildly.

And, finally, we have afternoon records for Media7 for the next three Tuesdays (to make way for the Comedy Festival). If you can make it to The Classic on Queen Street at 2.15 tomorrow to see what we do, hit the reply button and get back to me asap. We can probably accommodate 10 doubles.

The panel for tomorrow is Mark Sainsbury, Shayne Currie and Graham Reid, and we'll be reviewing media coverage of the Mangatepopo tragedy, among other things.

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