Susan Ryder does something the media forgot to do: comparing the sentences handed down to two high-profile criminals.
The local news was full of reports last Friday on the sentencing of two New Zealand men for the respective deaths of two New Zealand children.
Both were high-profile cases on which much has been written and said. Both occurred in the North Island. Both caused shock and outrage within the population at large. And both men have received almost identical sentences.
The first case concerns 51 year-old Bruce Emery, found guilty of the manslaughter of Pihema Cameron, aged 15. Thirteen months ago, Cameron and a friend decided to deface Emery’s garage in Manurewa. Armed with a knife, Emery attempted to disrupt their activities and in the ensuing fracas, Cameron was killed.
The second case concerns 49 year-old William Curtis, found guilty for his role in the death of Nia Glassie in Rotorua, aged 3. Little more than a baby when she died, Nia had the fatal misfortune to be born into the wrong family, six of whom are now in prison for her death.
So there we have the essence of each case. Let’s now look at them a little more closely.
Bruce Emery personifies the Kiwi who’s just had enough.
- Had enough of tolerating teens who don’t give a damn for anyone else or anyone else’s property.
- Had enough of paying for people who think they have the right to live off others for nothing in return.
- Had enough of the endless excuses trotted out by apologists for the actions of those same people.
- Had enough of police who never come when you call them and seldom treat this sort of property crime seriously when they do.
- Had enough of politicians who bleat about how they are going to “get tough” on crime prior to every election – and then do sweet bugger all afterward.
So a family man, a complete stranger to law-breaking, spots a couple of teenage vandals, grabs a knife in self-defence (so he said) and, at the end of his tether, his actions result in the fatal stabbing of one of the perpetrators.
Convicted last December, he, via his lawyer, reportedly asked the Cameron family for forgiveness. Based on the very public reaction by the Camerons to his sentencing last Friday, he will be waiting some time. Described by Herald columnist Tapu Misa as “bitter and intemperate”, the family, all sporting t-shirts bearing the deceased’s image, were visibly angry and disgusted with the sentence of four years and three months.
That the Cameron family has lost a loved member cannot be denied. That a teenager has lost his life as a result of tagging somebody’s garage is undeniably harsh. But nowhere have the Camerons acknowledged that Pihema died as a result of committing a crime, as a result of his actions. Had he been at home, or anywhere else that evening, supervised and minding his own business, he might still be alive. Had he been by Bruce Emery’s garage and not defaced it, he would not have died in the manner he did. Wailing about his loss while wearing t-shirts bearing his picture is all very well and good for ratings-mindful media and head-shaking do-gooders, but sadly, it’s a bit like shutting the door after the horse has bolted.
On to the second case where six people have been convicted and sentenced for the death of Nia Glassie, William Curtis being the sixth. Let’s re-cap what he did to his tiny de facto step-granddaughter:
- Tied a scarf around her neck and lifted her by it until she went purple in the face.
- Slapped her with such force that her face would bleed.
- Shouted and swore at her to shut up or he would stomp on her head.
The terror to which that child was subjected is beyond comprehension. She lived with that monster – that subhuman – for four months. And he was one of six – six – adults responsible for the terror, two of whom (his sons) are serving sentences for her murder. It has been noted that Curtis remains unremorseful for his actions.
Unlike Pihema Cameron, Nia’s mother was not outside court last Friday morning wailing and wearing a t-shirt bearing her daughter’s image. Lisa Kuka is already in prison, being found guilty on two charges of the manslaughter of her own daughter. Unlike Pihema Cameron, wee Nia Glassie never had a chance.
Tapu Misa has the temerity to say that Pihema Cameron was killed “over a bit of paint.” Fellow columnist Brian Rudman – another stranger to the concept of personal responsibility – calls the overwhelming pro-Emery public reaction “lacking in common decency and civility.” And Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia describes taggers as a “misunderstood sub-culture of artists.” The race card has turned up with yawning predictability, as have comparisons with the longer sentence handed down to (then 12 year old) Bailey Junior Kurariki for his part in the murder of Michael Choy seven years ago, whilst ignoring the premeditated nature of the latter crime. Welcome to glaring examples of point three, as above.
And so to last Friday’s sentencing. Bruce Emery received four years and three months for the manslaughter of Pihema Cameron. William Curtis received four years for his role in the death of Nia Glassie.
Perhaps those expressing shock and outrage over “unjust” or “pathetic” sentencing might like to ponder that.
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