Long way to go before victims gain rightful status

Jesse Shane Kempson was named as Grace Millane’s killer last week after more than two years of...
Jesse Shane Kempson was named as Grace Millane’s killer last week after more than two years of name suppression. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
In January 2008, Dunedin woman Sophie Elliott was murdered in her home by a former boyfriend. Her father Gil Elliott  believes New Zealand’s justice system continues to favour the offender, rather than the victim.

On April 29, 2014, then justice minister Judith Collins organised a meeting at Parliament House in Wellington entitled the Leading Justice Symposium.

This meeting, attended by people from all walks of life, including some from the judiciary, was called in order to place victims at the centre of the justice system. Unfortunately, this has, despite Ms Collins’ best intentions, never happened.

There are many problems with the criminal justice system and much of this can be laid at the feet not of those who work in the system, but of the members of Parliament of all persuasions.

It appears as if the criminal justice system is beyond parliamentarians and indeed has been ‘‘put in the too-hard basket’’.

Tinkering with a system that affects the lives of many, especially victims of crime, is not the way to go.

The criminal justice system in New Zealand is offender-friendly, as evidenced by the extreme measures taken to keep the identity of the offender suppressed as in the Jesse Kempson case.

Too bad that he had other crimes that needed to be investigated.

The fact that he brutally murdered Grace Millane shows who gets looked after in the criminal justice system — certainly not the victim.

Kempson was sentenced to 10 years for the rape of one of the women he met on Tinder before killing Grace Millane — hence the reason for name suppression — and instead of this sentence being cumulative on the sentence of 17 years he got for killing Grace Millane, it was concurrent with that sentence.

Sophie Elliott who was murdered by Clayton Weatherston in 2008. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Sophie Elliott was murdered by Clayton Weatherston in 2008. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Does the public understand what concurrent means?

It means that, in effect, that particular (expensive) trial was a waste of time because there was no added punishment for that crime and the victim therefore was seen by the criminal justice system as inconsequential. The rape was therefore not punished and indeed could be thought of as free for Kempson.

No, the original sentence of 17 years could be thought of as manifestly inadequate for the awful things he did to Grace and lied about.

Kempson, I would venture, is most probably in the mould of Clayton Weatherston, a narcissist. The 10 years for an earlier rape, which the victim suffered but got no attention for, ought to be added to the 17 years for a total of 27 years.

It is common knowledge that narcissists, and others like paedophiles who are serving time in prison, can never be changed and therefore should not be released from prison because they don’t (generally) admit wrongdoing and will always be a danger to others if released into society.

The criminal justice system in New Zealand operates to protect offenders over victims. The defence (team) attempt to get their client off any charges or obtain a lesser charge for their client while the Crown solicitor(s) attempt to prosecute the offender on behalf of society and not the victim per se.

The offender therefore may have his or her name suppressed but unless the case involves a sexual crime, the victim is named.

Not only that, but because the victim is not represented in court, anything about the victim expressed by the defence can be published unless the judge intervenes.

Interestingly, because the prosecution at trial are not representing the victim, then by law they cannot question the defence regarding (adverse) issues relating to the victim. In other words, the defence can pretty well say what they like about the victim, (as in the Grace Millane case about ‘‘rough sex’’), true or untrue, in order to make their client appear in a better light.

Further to this, when it comes time for a victim impact statement (VIS) at sentencing, there are pretty severe restrictions on what members of the victim’s family or friends can say in the case of a victim, including a murdered victim about the offender.

Grace Millane was in New Zealand as part of her OE. Photo: supplied
Grace Millane. Photo: Supplied
The VIS has in recent times been modified so that a family member or friend can say more than was possible to say for example in 2008. However, what can be said in a VIS is still restricted. Does this breach the Bill of Rights Act 1990 section 14, Freedom of expression?

Finally, should an offender who may be a murderer at sentencing be permitted (as they are) to read every VIS before a VIS is read or handed up to the court before the victim’s family and friends and the public hear those words?

This is the law, and is that another right that an offender should not have when a murdered victim who is dead at the hands of the murderer has NO rights?

There is a long way to go before victims are placed anywhere near the centre of the criminal justice system.

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