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Dunedin police warrant praise for the door-knocking initiative at the homes of previous offenders as a way to curb burglaries.
Although the hassling and harassment of previous criminals who have done their time could be seen as an affront to civil liberties and a free society, it would be foolish and naive to ignore previous offenders and just wait for more crime to be committed.
Reoffending rates are high. Knowing that, police should be suspicious.
Of course, police must be careful not to rush to conclusions and make unfair assumptions about particular individuals.
Open, flexible minds about whos, whats and whys are central to the best and fairest policing. Once a criminal, not always a criminal.
The police are door knocking, we are told, to provide support.
That back-up could be crucial in crime prevention.
If causes of reoffending can be nipped before any buds have had time to bloom, not only will the previous offender benefit but there will also be fewer victims of crime.
As Otago coastal acting area commander Inspector Kelvin Lloyd said, the new method was introduced because police wanted to stop offenders rather than catch them.
People were "cold-called" to see if issues that put them at risk of offending persisted. If so, police could assist in getting help.
Stealing to get money for methamphetamine is prominent, he said.
Police could, at least, put the previous offenders in touch with organisations that might be able to help with their drug addiction.
Unfortunately, methamphetamine addiction, particularly vicious and destructive, has spread rapidly in the South and police — and society — are under increasing pressure from this evil scourge.
In the meantime, hopefully police have the resources to continue and expand their door knocking and positive attention to previous offenders. Prevention of crime, rather than having to confront it after the fact, is so much better for everyone.
Rights of prisoners
Should convicted murderer John Vogel receive compensation for "unlawful" solitary confinement?
Although the United Nations Committee Against Torture says yes, the matter went through the New Zealand court system with no compensation required.
Vogel was kept in a cell 23 hours a day for 21 days in 2000, six days more than legally allowed. He had asked to be put in confinement to help him deal with his drug addiction but stated the conditions made him feel vulnerable, and argued he was deprived of "liberty and humanity" under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
The UN committee said that knowing Vogel had depression and drug addiction, the solitary confinement for the period was not appropriate.
The confinement contravened international human rights.
The High Court said Vogel had not been subject to pain or suffering but the Court of Appeal found he had not been treated with humanity and respect.
However, it declined compensation.The Supreme Court dismissed an application for a further appeal.
Vogel’s lawyer said the committee’s decision had implications for 72 prisoners suing the government for unlawful confinement.
He said $20,000 compensation for Vogel would be reasonable.
In a just society even prisoners, no matter their crime, have rights and these need to be protected.
But compensation should be reserved for egregious cases.
Given the rulings of the New Zealand courts, this was not one of them.
What, too, of the victims of crime, usually left in at least psychological pain and usually without any significant monetary compensation? They have a right to feel aggrieved if the likes of Vogel receive payouts for treatment that, while not right, is not shocking.
New Zealanders also look at the record of most members of the United Nations and, instinctively, find the ruling grossly hypocritical.
The UN Committee Against Torture surely has far worse cases to focus on.
This case cheapens efforts to restrict all-too-common "torture".