Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Murder. It’s still not O.K.

This is what leapt out of my newspaper this morning:

NZ HERALD: Hemmings' murderer had killed before
The man who murdered Good Samaritan Austin Hemmings in central Auckland spent eight years in an Australian jail for stabbing and killing his estranged girlfriend [and was then deported to NZ].
    He was also jailed in New Zealand on three separate occasions for knife [attacks] dating back to 1987…

Just think about that for a minute or two. A man who’d killed before and had been jailed before for knife attacks, all of them with the same sort of large kitchen knife with which he killed Austin Hemmings, was left by the courts out on the streets in Auckland ready to kill again.


This is not the first time, is it. A long list of New Zealanders have been attacked killed and maimed by thugs who had a history, who were out on bail, out on parole, or who had killed before but had not been given the sentence their crime deserved.  Susan Couch, Tai Hobson and the families of Kylie Jones, Karl Kuckenbecker and many many other good people who deserved better can tell you the story.

The first duty of any responsible govt is to protect the rights, lives and liberties of its citizens. That’s its duty. That’s its job. This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government.

The legitimate arms of government are there to protect innocent people from those, like Austin Hemmings’s killer, who think force is the means by which humans deal with one another. His killer had certainly given sufficient indication that’s how he felt—"when he gets enraged, he needs to vent his anger" the court heard yesterday—yet the last time he attacked someone with a knife, stabbing them in the stomach with a large kitchen knife and partially severing their thumbs (this was after he’d killed his girlfriend and been deported back here), he was jailed for just two years and four months.

Think about that for a moment, too.

Think about a courtroom in which a record of three savage knife attacks and a murder were read out, and the man responsible was put away for our safety only for two years and four months. Two years and four months … after which he was free to vent his anger again on anyone he felt like.

If the police, the law courts and the prisons are going to do their proper job—which is protecting the rights, liberties and lives of its citizens—if “justice” isn’t going to end up with the adjective “vigilant” in front of it—then they need to protect those who value their life, liberty, property and happiness from those who've shown beyond reasonable doubt that they're quite partial to taking them all away.  ("The rights of the accused are not a primary," points out philosopher Ayn Rand, "they are a consequence derived from a man’s inalienable, individual rights. A consequence cannot survive the destruction of its cause.") 

That's the only real reason to catch people and lock them up, isn't it—the only defensible reason.  Not to punish them, but to to protect us.

But it’s not happening, is it.

_Quote Mr Hemmings' brother Craig said last night that a man with Brown's convictions should not have been on the streets. "It would alarm any New Zealander and, I would think, any sensible person."

But after unrepentantly drawing gallons of blood and taking one life, this young man was out on the street to do it again.

Something’s wrong, isn’t it. The government is failing in the one thing they’re supposed to be doing—protecting our rights, lives and liberties.

But instead of walking the beat and policing laws already on the books, such as (off the top of my head) bans on carrying large kitchen knives, police instead spend too much their time collecting revenue from folk driving a few “k”s over an arbitrary speed limit, raiding hydroponic garden-supply shops, and harassing the 400,000 NZers who harmlessly smoke cannabis.

And instead of taking violent crime seriously, they give the highest prosecution rates to administrative (91 percent), dishonesty (86 percent), and drug offences (84 percent), crimes which neither pick our pockets nor break our bones; while violent crime—which does—has among the lowest prosecution rates, at just 16 percent. And sentencing for violent crimes has only recently begun to recognise that NZers don’t want violent criminals dumped out on the streets, they want them locked up safe inside. (Read the recent trends in the report Patterns in Police Apprehensions in New Zealand 2005/06 to 2008/09.)  And let’s not mention how many violent crimes are committed while the perpetrator is out on bail, or parole for an earlier attack.

Something’s wrong, it’s alarming, and any sensible person would know that.

* * * *

PS: I can’t help being reminded that the last time I discussed this I was savaged by Russell Brown for wanting “a policeman at every dinner table” for pointing out that so many convicted for violent crime are being kept on the taxpayers’ tab, and for assuming Austin Hemmings’s killer must have been before the courts before.

_Quote-Dumb The man arrested by police was not on bail or parole and apparently has no history of drug abuse or mental illness [said Russell attacking my silliness]. But he is a sickness beneficiary, and for Cresswell -- deftly applying righteousness as the cement between correlation and causation -- that is proof enough that welfarism is to blame.
Maybe we will discover that the man has a criminal history, maybe not…

Maybe we will, Russell. Maybe we will.


  1. Well said.

    Russell should have egg on his face, given the scrambled thought process he applied to his first commentary on your original post.

    He talked about the stabbing in terms of trends, of numbers of total people saved or not, and where they occur, and then concluded your rant was pointless.

    He even made assumptions about your argument that didn't need assuming.

    Because he generalized, he lost the essential point. This one case was one too many, and all of the ingredients to prevent it, all of the information required to understand the real risk this lowlife represented to the community was there.

    Now that the information has come to light, he might want to get of his "don't bash the welfare recipient" horse, and think about the light sentencing a murderer and repeat violent offender received to enable him to kill again.

    It takes a lot of resources to monitor violent offenders, but as you say, perhaps we can divert a small fraction of the resources spent elsewhere to prioritize this better.

  2. Yep, Mr Garret and ACT party policy of 3 strikes and you're out, will lock up thugs like Hemmings' murderer for good. This will protect us,our rights and liberties.

  3. No problem with 3 strikes, life sentences that mean it etc.

    But you ruined this withe the whinge about traffic policing at the end. Murderers kill about 40 New Zealanders every year, bad driving kills over 300. That is why traffic policing is a priority.

    Anyway why do you care? You can't go fast enough to get a speeding ticket in a Spridget :-P

  4. @ACT Youth: Given that the highest prosecution rates are for administrative (91 percent), dishonesty (86 percent), and drug offences (84 percent), crimes which neither pick our pockets nor break our bones, your Mr Garrett's policy of 3 strikes and you're out will most likely be locking up those folks, while your thugs are being let off with warnings.

    I say real sentences for real crimes--crimes with real victims.

  5. @RRM: Bad driving kills people. Speeding, not so much--but it's easy to collect revenue therefrom.

    I want police to be police, not tax collectors.

    "Anyway why do you care? You can't go fast enough to get a speeding ticket in a Spridget."

    Harsh, but almost true. ;^)

  6. So true PC. I was the victim of an unprovoked assault by someone who had just been released from prison. It got to court 15 months later, in the meantime this scum had assaulted 3 more people. In the end he was convicted, and given concurrent sentences for all his assaults which consisted of community service.

  7. Brown's assertion that the killer was "quiet and god-fearing, apparently", shows just how out of touch with reality he is.

    Presumably if you're "quiet and god-fearing", then you're allowed to nip out and stab people every now and again.

  8. PC is absolutely correct re the government's role being to lock up miscreants for the protection of others.

    The issue that arises is the tenet of "Independence of the Judiciary." How does the government breach that tenet and insist upon penalties that achieve the protection of others?

    It is all very well for the legislature to pass statutes decreeing minimum terms but where there is any residuary discretion the Judges can do as they please, either individually or through establishing customary guiding principles.

    I don't know the solution.

    Chris R.

  9. Anonymous

    The solution is easy: Directly elected officials and a good constitution.

    No wiggle room. Protect my rights or get voted out.

  10. Great post PC.

    The Welfare tap needs to be cut off. Maybe then South Auckland will produce less criminals.


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