Gore leaders dispute judge's take on violence

Tracy Hicks
Tracy Hicks
Incidents of Gore's young women becoming violent after drinking may have raised the ire of a district court judge, but the town's community leaders are not convinced the town has a chronic problem.

Judge Dominic Flatley, who sat in the Gore District Court on Wednesday, said there were too many incidents of young women becoming involved in alcohol-fuelled fights and assaults in the town.

"What is going on with the young women of this town? Gore is not the Wild West," he said.

He made the comments after dealing with three cases of young women facing violence charges during the first 30 minutes of the court hearing.

But it is not the first time a judge sitting in Gore has expressed concerns about the alcohol culture in the town.

In August last year, Judge Brian Callaghan questioned whether the lowering of the drinking age to 18 had been a good move.

In sentencing a 20-year-old for buying alcohol for minors, he said there were so many problems with young people and alcohol that he was "fast coming to the belief" that 18 years was too young to buy alcohol.

Another judge, Jane McMeeken, who was born and raised in Gore, reported in a recent paper on the issue of dealing with problem drinking, that she often commented, when sitting in Youth Court, that if she only had to deal with young offenders who offended while sober, she would have very little work to do.

"That is a chilling statement to make when most of the young people I see are 14 and 15 years of age," she said.

Judge Flatley is a former Gore resident and was head boy at St Peters College in 1982.

He claimed he was slightly stunned during this week's sitting after coming across so many cases of attacks by young women.

"I don't know what goes on here."

But Mayor Tracy Hicks said he would be surprised if Gore was different from any other community when it came to young people and alcohol.

"It is disappointing when this kind of thing grabs the headlines.

"I don't think we are any worse here than anywhere else up and down the country," he said, when contacted.

The Gore District Council was helping to develop an alcohol strategy that he hoped would deal with some of the problems and incidents that ended up in court this week.

"I'm hoping that will be part of the solution. But this is all part of the challenges we all face."

Acting Senior Sergeant Ian Temple denied there was a real problem involving female behaviour and alcohol, calling the sequence of this week's court list as "unfortunate, more than anything else".

"We [the police] haven't noticed any trends that suggest there is a problem as such.

I think it was just unfortunate so many young women with similar charges were called so early in the list," he said.

In one of the cases, a 20-year-old mother of three, Jacinda Rangi-Marie Ngatahi Pennicott, punched another woman who refused to look after her children for a second night.

Pennicott, who owed $22,000 in fines, had reacted violently because she had been denied a chance to "go out on the booze", Judge Flatley said.

Another defendant, Alexandra Ellaline Marie Jackson (21), had simply punched a bystander for no reason, while Irene Hannah Medley (27) did the same during a trip to Invercargill.

A fourth woman, Lisa Anne Harris (31), was convicted of assaulting a woman with intent to injure, after savagely attacking the victim and kicking her while she lay on the ground.

Social agencies who deal with the aftermath of such offending said they had not noticed a dramatic lift in demand for their services, but agreed it was a problem that needed addressing.

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