Edwards on the “smart looking rapist”

Brian Edwards has written about his thoughts on the “smart looking rapist” from Turangi:

I rarely find myself in agreement with Garth McVicar or his ‘Sensible Sentencing’ Trust. I’m a liberal in the area of law and order and not a great believer in the value of lengthy prison sentences. But on the issue of Judge Jocelyn Munro’s remark to the 16-year-old who attacked and raped a 5-year-old girl, that he ‘looked smart’ when he appeared before her in the Youth Court, I find myself in near-agreement with Mr McVicar. I wasn’t, as he declared himself, ‘disgusted’ by the judge’s remark, but I thought it displayed extraordinary lack of understanding or empathy towards the feelings of the little girl’s parents.

I hadn’t intended to deal with the issue on this site. The nation’s ‘outrage’ about the crime and the judge’s remark have been well canvassed in other forums. But the defences of the judge’s remarks by her colleagues in the law, published in the press this morning, struck me as so inadequate that I need to respond.

Manukau barrister Kate Leys informed us that, ‘There’s a statutory requirement upon the court to make sure the young person understands and participates in the proceedings’. I really can’t see the relevance of that to complimenting the rapist of a five-year-old girl on being neatly dressed.

Auckland barrister Maria Pecotic agreed with her Manukau colleague: ‘It is to encourage the young person to continue to take that care.’ That argument seems to me to suggest, ‘Well, he may have raped a 5-year-old girl, but at least he takes pride in his appearance.’ I come close to being ‘disgusted’ by that suggestion.

Youth advocate Megan Jenkins told us that a judge ‘might have seen the person three weeks earlier, and if there’s a difference, the judges will make comments on that.’  If I were the parent of a five-year-old girl, brutally assaulted and raped, would I find it appropriate for a judge to compliment the defendant on looking smarter at his second appearance than at his first? The question is rhetorical.

If Brian Edwards and Garth McVicar agree on something then it is something that should be noted with a bit more attention than a simple nod or a wink.

Criminal defence lawyer, the late Mike Bungay QC, with whom I co-authored a book on murder in New Zealand, not only instructed his clients (primarily murderers and rapists) on the importance of dressing well in court, but often drew a chalk mark on the dock for his clients to look down at while listening to the evidence against them. Their bowed heads were intended to convey shame and remorse.

I very much doubt that ‘looking smart’ was this defendant’s own idea. It will have been on his lawyer’s and his parents’ advice and they were right to give it. But it is a strategy to suggest that something has changed. It was intended, as the prayer was, to say, ‘I am not the same young man who raped a five-year-old girl a matter of weeks ago. Just look at me. You can see that I am someone else.’ No doubt without intending to, Judge Munro validated that impression by complimenting the 16-year-old defiler on his appearance.

Brian says it all so eloquently.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.