Court of Appeal rejects Mobsters attempt to reduce their sentences

THE COURT of Appeal has sent perhaps its sternest message in years to the gangs by rejecting outright efforts by a group of Mongrel Mob members to have their jail terms cut for their role in a high-profile gangland attack.

In August last year Derek Maynard Savage, 52, Deuce Derrick Junior Evo Rua Savage, 23, and Terere Kiwaho MacDonald, 29 were sentenced to 12 and-a-half years behind bars, with a minimum non-parole period of six years and three months, for discharging a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

In addition, Deuce Savage was sentenced to an additional two years and three months on a charge of aggravated robbery, and demanding with intent to steal in relation to a previous offence.

The charges related to the September 2013 gangland shooting of Jeremy Patrick August and Gavin Dean Pirini, at a River Rd property in Kawerau.

Both men were required to spend lengthy periods in hospital undergoing and recovering from numerous operations. In the aftermath of the shooting, they also both lost their jobs apparently had suffered significant psychological trauma.

The sentences were among the toughest on record and a clear sign by the courts gang violence, especially that involving the use of firearms, would no longer be tolerated.

All three men appealed against the length of the sentence handed down by Justice Lang in the High Court at Rotorua on the grounds the starting point of 12 ½ years imprisonment on the most serious counts of discharging firearms with intent to cause grievous bodily harm was too high.   

McDonald’s lawyer argued that witnesses in the case could not identify which of the three assailants fired the shots causing the serious injuries to the victims. He accepted his client was present at the shooting and must have been armed but claimed the judged erred in effectively treating each of the three attackers as a principal offender when their culpability needed to be assessed individually.

He submitted that Mr MacDonald should have the benefit of the doubt and be treated as a secondary party who encouraged and assisted the principal offender whoever he was.

However, the Court of Appeal rejected those submissions.

In a ‘joint enterprise’ like this, where all three assailants were armed, a sentencing Judge could not be expected to speculate in favour of one or more of the three offenders about whether he in fact fired the shots, the Court said in its decision.

Taken to its logical conclusion, that argument would mean, because nobody can identify which of the three men fired the two shots, all should be treated as secondary parties entitled to the benefit of discounted starting points.

That, the Court said, would make a nonsense of sentencing principles.

“What matters is that each of the three men were armed in accordance with a pre-meditated plan, and that one or more of them discharged his firearm at point blank range at two unarmed victims.”

The Court of Appeal said there was a statutory requirement to impose a penalty close to the prescribed maximum if the offending was ‘the most serious of cases for which the penalty is prescribed’.

“It is difficult to envisage more serious offending of its type for one victim, let alone two. All appellants are fortunate that their victims survived, if only because it spared them the inevitability of murder convictions and of sentences of life imprisonment with minimum terms of at least 17 years,” the Court of Appeal ruled.

cookStephen Cook is a multi award winning journalist and former news editor and assistant editor of the Herald on Sunday.

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